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Exodus

2nd Place Winner of the Charlotte A. Newberger Poetry Contest

A woman has painted her doorpost
with blood so that now, in gray half light,
she shakes a small shoulder,
pats a curved back, and her children
startle awake, allow themselves
to be rushed into clothes.
Trusting the hush, they quietly follow
as she walks with their father,
as they join a river of families
coursing from home. They walk and walk,
a block of bread dough on her back.
She is used to waking early, used to
hefting, carrying, hurrying tasks.
Such is the life they steal away from;
and she could almost feel light,
listening to the sound of her children’s
feet beside her, breathing the baby’s
sour milk head resting on her chest.
But she hears the cries of those
other mothers, the ones waking now
to the stiff unblinking bodies of their boys.
Joined by a thousand voices,
the wail rises, thicker than the dust
they kick up as they walk.
Can we let ourselves be loved by such a god?
She’d ask this of her husband
but she knows what he would say.
Adonai Echad. What choice do we have?

Ona Gritz is a poet, children’s author, and a columnist for the online journal Literary Mama