Sample Poems by Nina Tassi
At first sight of Bethlehem again,
swaying barley fields heavy with fruit,
women calling back and forth, Is
my heart leaped as I recalled my very name
means sweetness; but bile surged to my mouth,
words spewed out,
Do not call me Naomi,
for a bitter vision sprang up to plague my eyes:
a joyous bride of yore, dancing in the village,
now a crone with withered breasts and womb,
husband and sons forsaken in their graves. I felt
an urge to run, tear out my hair. Why did I return?
I raged against the Lord, who brought me low,
clutched my cloak about me like a shroud, and
told the women coldly, Call
me Mara, bitterness.
But blessed is the child
who clings to me,
faithful Ruth, child of
grace, daughter of God.
What energy is this I feel but cannot see,
propelling me like a blind woman in the wind?
Unseeing yet a seer, I send Ruth off to glean
in the fields; evenings I rub balm on her sore hands,
brush her hair as she laughs shyly, blushes to say,
dark eyes aglow, how Boaz my kinsman attends her.
I hold her in my arms as she sleeps, breath warm
on my face, and in a dream the great heart of Boaz
appears to me: deep crimson, manly. Ruth’s destiny
in my words, I bid her go to the threshing floor
at midnight, where Boaz awakens to find her lying
against him, her warm body silken, intoxicating;
I shiver in my bed, seek his mind:
hold fast, clear all
obstacles, take Ruth to wife.
Praise to the Lord who
leads her in darkness to
walk toward the light.
Soft as air in my arms, the swaddled infant
feels in his dreams the fullness of my love.
I sing as he sleeps of the shining harvest
the Lord has heaped upon me. Beloved Ruth,
more daughter than daughter-in-law, loves me,
trusts me, gives me this child to liven my old age;
Boaz, honorable kinsman, seats me at his table;
I am become mother of mothers, my descendants
will enter the House of David, exalted in Israel.
The Almighty testifies to me, makes clear my path,
leads me to my home. He scooped out bitterness,
(oh praise blindness and its glory); into my emptiness
He poured such sweetness as nectar does not know;
I hear now such songs as only Yahweh sings.
The harvest has come and
the babe is born,
and all in the village
lift their voices in song.
The Naming of Moses
As God must have looked on you, Moses,
I see you, twice saved from the river of death:
babe hidden by Hebrew mother in the reeds,
rescued at water’s edge by Pharaoh’s daughter,
raised as an Egyptian son in easeful fluid days,
floating as a false prince through childhood,
all the years of your youth, Moses, unknown
to yourself—calm surface, turbid waters below,
duality of soul but not of blood, whispers sent
like barely heard wavelets, mingled with soft
suckling sounds in the arms of your nurse, true
mother, intimations imbibed with her milk,
secrets kept deep in the life-giving Nile. While
the Lord watched you rise to manhood’s power,
He made ready the fires of your awakening.
Ineluctably drawn to a high desert place where
the hidden God of your forefathers awaits you,
your eyes are transfixed by the consummate sight
of a burning bush that refuses to be consumed,
and as you move to it, the Heart of God leaps up
at this sign of your readiness, and He calls out
your name as never before you heard it: Mosheh!
Mosheh! soft Hebrew sounding through the ages,
then silence amid the blaze, for God does not beat
and hammer but holds His Power in abeyance until
He hears you call back to Him: Here I am! and then,
moved by the fiery abundance of His Love for you,
He hastens to heap upon you gifts beyond measure:
the truth of your being, the glory of your destiny, and
from God’s mouth, the revelation of His Divine Name.
The Shining Face of Moses
Moses would put the veil upon his face again.
This veil, Lord, I dare cast off
only in your presence.
Gift of heaviest weight, it absents me
from my people in ways I can hardly bear.
Because I know you in your secret self,
my people will never know me as I am.
I am shrouded before them
as I stand in the midst of your light.
You have exacted a dire exchange:
your radiance for my earthly darkness.
The dry wilderness confounds my spirit;
can you conceive, Lord, such loneliness as this?
You make me a stranger to my very self;
you alone know me as I am.
Lord, I hold this veil as holy in my hands;
never, I pray you, take it away from me.
Miriam Speaks from the Desert
Miriam was leprous, as white as snow.
In your eyes, Lord, I was once
beautiful, a small Hebrew slave girl
hidden in the reeds, dark eyes watchful
until I sprang into the sunlight
and spoke boldly to pharaoh’s daughter.
You gazed on me, raised me up
as prophetess, made me a fiery dancer,
stirring the women to frenzied praise of you.
Now you fling me into this blazing desert,
my eyes, mouth, lips scorched by the sun—
because I spoke one rash word against Moses.
The sun lacerates my suffering flesh,
yet your wrath stings me far worse
than putrid leprosy or exile in the desert.
You terrify me, yet I dare show you a heart
riven by anger—do you forget that I love you, Lord?
The desert is silent. The women stay shut away
in the camp, no dancing, no songs, no sound;
my burning feet sink ever deeper into the sand.
You speak to Moses mouth to mouth, I know,
but to me you whispered—I heard you clearly say:
Beloved. Lord, call me back to dance for you again.
Zipporah: To My Husband Moses, 1
Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me.
I was named for the gentlest of birds,
a delicate sparrow soft and slight of wing,
until that night I came to you, trembling,
heart in a flutter, gift of my father Jethro.
You were a stranger cloaked in whispers
of bloody hands, yet at your first touch,
desire streaked through my frightened breast,
and all the fields of Midian turned to gold.
When we set out for Egypt at God’s call,
husband, your face darkened with rage and fear;
my compassion flowed as milk from my breasts,
I stooped, grabbed a sharp stone, bloodied my son,
cast off his infant’s foreskin—to save you,
stave off the Lord's anger, my blood-bridegroom.
Zipporah:To My Husband Moses, 2
You charged on for God; I was wrenched away,
a sorrowing bird in my father’s house,
till at length of years he brought me back
to your triumph: burnt offerings, feasts, laughter,
blaze of bonfires, and I waited in shadows,
trembling as a young girl. You appeared, eyes
liquid, carried me to a dark sea where we drank
deeply of each other for a timeless moment.
Banished again to wilderness years in Midian,
restless and worn I have roamed the endless fields,
hearing even this in the winds: a woman, Ethiopian;
gaunt with age and heart sickness, I do not believe.
Moses, my body knows you in your depths, answers
your rage and love and sorrow: I am your wife forever.