Ode to Deborah (Mother of Israel)
After Judges 4
Your royal robes weigh you down,
though you sit beneath a date-
palm tree in Ephraim, enjoying
the mountain air. The line of people
lengthens, then snakes around
the other trees till it reaches
the river. You’re grateful for the shade
and the way your servants fan your
flank while you listen. Your tribal
members seek your favor and raise
their questions. You are the answer
to all their prayers. The day you’ll call
for Barak, you’ll already know his
hesitation, his spineless need of you.
No matter. You’ll also know Yahweh
to be the hero of the story,
that 900 chariots, made of iron
or wood—who cares?—will fold
before your forty thousand men with
or without shield or spear.
And you’ll know—won’t you?—
of Jael and her ambidextrous
skill, know she, like you, is one shrewd
woman, fully formed from Adam’s rib
and the dust of Yahweh’s hands.
Your poems, your hymns will
become her blanket, her princely bowl
of milk. Your visions, your verdicts,
her mallet and peg, Sisera’s temple
nailed to the holy land
between her legs.
A Best of the Net and six-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Julie L. Moore is the author of four poetry collections, including, most recently, Full Worm Moon, which won a 2018 Woodrow Hall Top Shelf Award and received honorable mention for the Conference on Christianity and Literature’s 2018 Book of the Year Award. She has also had poetry appear in African American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Image, New Ohio Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review. Moore is the Writing Center Director at Taylor University, where she is the poetry editor for Relief Journal. Learn more about her work at julielmoore.com.
Image credit: Deborah is shown in a stained glass window by the Russian-Jewish artist Marc Chagall. Photo: © 1997 Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris. See the article on the Biblical Archeology Society website.