I came to join the women
by Rochelle Mass

I came to a place where cotton grew out of yellow hearts
where bitter olives were picked and cured where
melons with green flesh grew on the top of the hill where
etched numbers from camps were
told and told again.

Why did you come? they ask me
and ask again.

I couldn’t say then but
after thirty years and more I know
I came to join the women before me.
Devorah first to judge and
Yael first to command troops
on the Gilboa ridge and Jezebel
who flashed oval eyes at soldier boys and
Michal daughter to a king
who lost his head on that same height of land.

I came to join the women before me
take my place, make things new
in the valley of Jezre’el
the lord himself sowed.

After they drained the swamps, I came
after Golda joined a kibbutz just down the road after
eucalyptus rooted into the tough earth and after
pines and sycamore bent to the wind.

Why did you come?
Why do you stay?
they ask
I walk down the road to the Kings’ Way where
the tillers, the farmers carve the slim land.

The cotton is swelling again
I remember when I came and why.

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