Zilpah the Invisible Mother, by Marlene Goldberg

Four mothers. Matriarchs.
I gave birth to Jacob’s sons; their names were given by my mistress.
But destiny’s mine. Rachel’s buried in Bethlehem, Leah in Machpella Cave.
Reuben, Leah’s son, cohabited with my sister, Bilha.
So now I’m Jacob’s wife. Disappearing at night, my ebony skin enveloped by darkness, I lay, my black curls still wet from immersion in the Mikveh, waiting for Jacob, my husband.
Dawn. One bird chirps. Jacob has left for prayer. More birds sing. I don’t.
The baby suckles at my breast. I wipe away my tear from her cheek.
Jacob returns. We eat in silence.


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