Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Book of Vashti

By Bonnie Lyons

(Esther 1)

Yes, you're Jews
but aren't you also women?
How can you celebrate Esther,
Mordechai's pawn, who only rose
to the occasion when he threatened
her personally. Until then, she was
content to remain Queen and blind
herself to the destruction
of the Jews.

Blind herself.
As you do now.

Read it again
but read it
as women:

We women were celebrating together
in our part of the palace,
when Ahasuerus, after seven days of drinking,
his heart "merry with wine"
ordered me to display myself
for the other men
like a whore.

When I refused,
he wanted to laugh it off
admit he was drunk and foolish,
but the other men, like all drunken men
in a mob, goaded him
to set the manly example.

And he did.
Banishing me and taking my lands,
jewels, and homes like a child
who grabs his playmate's toys.
The official account doesn't record
what happened next: how I lived
with the other cast-off women
in poverty and pride.

Yes, Esther, the fair young virgin,
using her beauty like a whore
conniving as a slave,
ensured the survival of the Jews
something temporary and local -
But even now
she blinds you,
binds you
to your weakness.

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