In Which I Overhear Leah Praying in Bed


I’d heard of this place, 

a beautiful expanse in which you could be lost
and then found. I think it was called 

the sea. I wanted to go with Rachel, 
to become wet and dry and wet 

and dab each other’s noses 
with sand. I prayed to You 

that we might go. I wanted to go 
just me and Rachel, because Mom 

was tired from being Dad’s wife, 
and I didn’t want her to get lost 

more than once. Instead, I prayed 
she would find energy again. I 

never prayed to be a wife, knew 
it was coming, but I didn’t worry 

about the freckles spreading 
on my nose from the sun, 

Dad, sometimes: “it’s time 
to start thinking.” Rachel: 

“you look nice!” after a bath, my hair 
wet and tangled. I prayed to You 

that she would always love me, and not 
find too many new friends, a boy 

who could love her more, her perfect 
pale nose. We had household gods 

with terrifying faces. I prayed to You 
instead, washing over me: quiet. 

You understood everything—

when Jacob arrived in our home, when he fell 

for Rachel. When I couldn’t

blame him for that. When I ended up here 

in this bed. I don’t know

if I pray to be a mother. But maybe, 

You could just keep me company awhile? 

Maya Wahrman’s midrashic poem touched me by the way it creates a poignantly innocent young Leah for whom sisterhood is a tender reality, and God is a “You” who hears prayers and may become Leah’s one true companion. At the poem’s end we learn that the “bed” of the title is the wedding bed where Leah has been made to play the part of her sister as Jacob’s bride.

—Alicia Ostriker, Poetry Editor