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The donkey recalls the flight into Egypt

By Claire Hermann



Again, we set out,

a different way,

past the temple and the stone houses,

the girl sitting astride,

the baby fussing in her arms,

sacks smelling of myrrh and frankincense

flung across my withers,

travelling ahead of the soldiers,

dodging from village to village,

hiding in a barn, behind a house,

the parents praying the little one did not cry.


Sometimes the army went before us,

and we heard wailing,

saw mothers cradling white bundles and rocking.

We passed two older children,

blood drying on their clothes,

shaking too hard to stand,

their pupils blown wide and dark, unfocused.

One pressed a kiss to the other’s forehead,

and they both stared past us

to the pastures and the olive groves.


We went on our perfumed way.

The man paused at a pomegranate tree

and plucked one fruit for the girl.

She ate it on the dusty roadside,

the juice running over her hands,

staining them red.

She offered some seeds to me

in an outstretched palm.


We passed a graveyard

with the ground fresh-dug in one long row.

Behind us, the new star kept winking in the sky.


Dust settled on our skin.

Our muscles stiffened with ache.

The man refused to rest

until we crossed

some border I could not see.

Then they unloaded me,

left me in this desert,

so like the hills of my birth.

Here I have passed some thirty years.

I can still smell the fear of flight,

feel her weight on my spine and

the pull of her sweaty grasp on my stiff mane,

hear the soft mutters of the sleeping child.


They longed for safety.

I carried them as far as I could.




 

Claire Hermann's work has been selected as a finalist for the North Carolina Poet Laureate’s Award, as a Split This Rock Poem of the Week, and she has been nominated for Best of the Net. Her chapbook, Mixed Stateis available from Dancing Girl Press. She has a weakness for cats, farmers markets, foggy mornings, and justice. Find her work at ironclaywriters.com/claire-hermann.

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