Poem: I Peed in the Shower at the Mikveh

I Peed in the Shower at the Mikveh
Then I justified it by thinking of the
women who peed; upheld this
mitzvah for hundreds of years until
I remembered indoor plumbing’s
recent & they probably used bare
trees in a forest or perhaps a handy
sand dune, scrubbing guilt from my
leg I noticed hair & a new mole’s
red greeting, when it dawned on
me that were I a goat, dove or
sheep in ancient Jerusalem that my
blood would be disqualified from
dashing on the altar, my livers &
fats unpleasing to the Lord. Maybe
that’s why sacrifices were as short-
lived as the yearling
goats—because no one could
comprehend the fear or trust in the
eyes of an unblemished animal, no
one felt the knife’s thin chill
because the blemished lived maybe
that’s why I clear my entrails;
wash my legs with water preparing
to be bathe in this ancient bath at

Poetry Editor Alicia Ostriker comments: Beginning as a jokey sort of confession, this poem becomes a stream of consciousness on women and the mikvah over centuries, its connection with nature and animal life, a thought about animal sacrifice, a speculation about blemishes and survival—and a glimpse of the poet in the present reverent moment. Humor and reverence come together here.