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“Unborn”

An unborn child is shaped like a locust
two eyes like the excrement of a fly
two ears like the excrement of a fly
two arms like two reddish threads from the madder root
mouth thin as a hair, torso a lentil.
If it is female, it is split like a grain of barley

How does the unborn lie in its mother?
Folded like a writing tablet, head between knees,
hands at the sides of the forehead, heels on the buttocks,
mouth closed, navel open,
It eats what its mother eats,
drinks what its mother drinks
and does not excrete so as not to kill her.
When it leaves her for the air of the world
what is open closes, what is closed opens.

These poems comes from the forthcoming book, The Defiant Muse: Hebrew Feminist Poems from Antiquity to the Present, a bilingual anthology edited by Shirley Kaufman, Galit Hasan-Rokem and Tamar Hess (The Feminist Press). Reprinted with permission.

About “Unborn,” the editors explain: “The main post biblical Hebrew text, the Talmud, both the Babylonian and the Palestinian, is a collectively compiled text. It was naturally compiled by men, but its polyphony also comprises women’s voices. The Palestinian sources in general are more tolerant regarding cultural expression of women. We have surmounted the problem of anonymity by positing female authorship of poetic passages that relate to the folk tradition on pregnancy and birth from the Midrash Leviticus Rabba.”