National Poetry Month: HEBREW LESSON: LICHBOSH by Marcela Sulak

Apr 7, 2014Archive, Feature

Hebrew Lesson: Lichbosh

by Marcela Sulak


To conquer, occupy, preserve


Before bowls and jugs existed

there were clay walls around

Jericho—its name

means fragment, and sometimes,

it means moon. How to enter it

is crucial. Wise to have spies when you’re circling perfection

that isn’t your own: The woman, the innkeeper Rehab,

plunged her nail to its half-moon

into the belly of a fig. She looked up and said, Remember me and my family,

as if she were tethered

by scarlet threads to a longing that well-furnished orchards can’t fill.


At the border of the Promised

Land, the men occupy

front row seats each night,

weeping silently. You

have ravished my heart my sister,

my bride you have ravished with one glance of your eyes, with one

jewel of your necklace, they say, meaning you can go now.

What would you have them do?

Everyone hungers, especially for hunger. Jericho: belly of an old bowl,

drain of ancient sinks, the

air shimmering with sheaves of wheat, barley, peas pinging into plates,


and palms. Two thousand years later,

in the city of psalms,

a woman said I’m

tired as David picked her

up. They had drinks. He took her home.

She got undressed, walked into his bedroom and lay down. She

just lay there, as if she were asleep. You can’t just lie there

waiting to get serviced

with David, as if you were Denmark afer Germany invaded. The problem

with beautiful girls is

that they always end up peasants on the land they once possessed.


Tamar, who studied dancing on

the knuckles of desire,

finally got her own.

Though her face covered

like a whore. How readily Judah

had given up staff and seal. Oh little boys inside your

mother’s lovely womb, your mother’s a sentence she can’t stand

to have completed. Your

mother is one line of an unrhymed couplet, three unrhymed. Did you think you could just break

enter and leave without

a trace, Judah? No one can. Now the Israeli intelligence


seduction program is trying

to recruit female spies

with its pragmatic

name, honeytrap. Rabbis

across the land sanction them to

abandon children and chicken soup, to sleep in virile

arms of strangers, and here’s the thing. Like Tamar, all David’s

second wife wanted in

the end, after the parties, the unbelievable toys, was a baby. Isn’t that

all any of us want,

to possess what someone else desires, be what someone else


desires? Those breasts like figs

ripening under

an emphatic tongue.

It is an old story:

How Xerxes, the defeated King,

ordered figs from Attica be served to him at every

meal to remind him that he no longer possessed the land

on which they grew.

This poem is from issue 39.1. You may purchase a copy here.