Ta’anit

By Sarah Barasch-Hagans

After Esther 4:16

“Go, assemble all the Jews who live in Shushan, and fast in my behalf; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens will observe the same fast. Then I shall go to the king, even though it is against the law; and if I am to perish, I shall perish!”

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A fast…

A plan?

 

My uncle

does not ask

any questions.

Or if he does

he does not

ask me.

 

My uncle says

If you don’t do

what I say

We will be saved

but you will die.

 

And I want to ask

Did you know this would happen?

But instead

I tell him

Go.

Fast.

 

A fast…

A pouring out?

 

It is easy to forget

there are people

outside of the gate.

 

Distracted by my girls

“the maidens” and the whores

braiding my hair

and talking of a sister

called Vashti who,

before I was bought,

was killed by the king.

 

Counseled by my friend

“the eunuch” Hatach

holding my hand

and sharing pain

of sex stolen

by our families

for keys to the king.

 

It is easy to forget

there are choices

outside of the fear.

 

A fast

A preparation?

 

Secrets are all I have.

What will be left

if I tell the truth?

 

My sisters urge

You can be like Vashti!

And I hear myself saying

One dead queen is enough!

 

My laugh is hollow.

No one blinks.

And I hear a whisper

from my own dry throat.

 

If I am to perish

Then I will perish.

 

All that is left

is this simple fact

and for me to ask

who will fast by me.

 

A fast

...A plea?

 

We rarely mention God these days

and really,

why would we?

No one will save us

but me.

 

But that doesn’t mean

I don’t pray

in a pidgin Persian/Hebrew

--the only words I remember

from my mother.

 

It was she

who hid them inside me

carefully before she died

like secrets

that will know

when they are ready

to be told.