An Old Woman Remembers (The Flight into Egypt)

When dark clouds cover moon’s
craters we push open creaky stable
doors, lead the donkey out to leave
for Egypt before Herod’s
soldiers pound upon gate. We hear

Rachels screaming, sons slaughtered
by decree, while we angle across
plowed barley fields, like robbers
with sagging bags of silver drachmas,
always looking back, avoiding

roads. Stadia and stadia later
we hear uncertain night noises
of distant battles, lost and won:
an ox bellowing, and the hissing
of ten skin-headed vultures

as they claw and squabble over a dead
sheep. We pass on the far side.
After two weeks off Gaza roads
we’ve not crossed the border, but far
enough to rest a day beside a huge
abandoned columbarium, rebels’ lair,
filled with white bird droppings,
and coppery green pigeon feathers.
To rest the donkey Joseph stops
beneath a turpentine tree while my infant

wails, wet diaper full once
more. On a flat rock I change
him, give him my nipple. He’s
beautiful beyond all imagining.
In thorn bushes Joseph finds a nest

of sand colored eggs, enough to get us
to the Nile. What cobra-crowned
Ramses reigns as Son of sun-
god Re, demanding bricks,
withholding straw, and knows not Joseph?