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Woman, you ain’t nobody’s ground
to be walked on, you holier than that.

The burning bush done visited
by Moses, did you forget your sense
of metaphor? Why you think he come
down that mountain like he be hit
over the head? Why you think
he find all those Israelites dancing,
havin’ melted their hardwon,
scraped-up currency to make
one sweet golden calf in honour
of all we’d suffered in the slave
pits and would suffer—may the
gracious God help us—no more?

Moses, he done smashed those
tablets first time around ‘cause he
didn’t get what that bush of high
degree was doin’ to him, though
if the shaking earth was any indication,
he was having hisself a fine time.
And sure, he took the words down
accurate enough: thou shalt not,
and honour thy mother—and the
Sabbath, you keep her holy now!

But the words
are not the goods
and the goods are
not the experience,
every delivery man
knows that.

Now when our leader went
up the second time, he knew
enough to take off his shoes—
he’d learned a few manners,
but he’d also left behind him
a heap of shame, all that cursin’
at the Israelites (we called
ourselves hapiru then, the
dusty ones). As I recall,
though I was just a girl,
when Moses took a fit, he
stirred up quite a bit of that
yellow Sinai grit, so when he
came down from those celestial
heights with his, “Don’t do this
and don’t do that,” guess what
was waitin’ for him?

all of us,
the shamed

I’m gonna leave the rest of
the story for some other time,
but, woman, don’t you be afraid
now of being the sand in another
one’s eyes. The tears’ll clear
‘em out, and he’ll see you
true again—or he won’t.

Either way,
the mountain
and the desert,
they got your back.

© Elaine Stirling, 2013
Image from bible.ca