from THE BOOK OF RUTH AND NAOMI By Marge Piercy
At the season of first fruits, we recall
two travellers, co-conspirators, scavengers making do with leftovers and mill ends, whose friendship was stronger than fear, stronger than hunger, who walked together, the road of shards, hands joined.
Once, I’d have done anything for Naomi.
Anything at all. Willingly.
Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people; and your God, my God.
I kept my promises,
I went to Bethlehem and to the barley fields and to Boaz.
But no one told me how far this road would go. No one said that as soon as I bore my baby
the women would carry him away, chanting a chorus of blessings.
Not on me;
No one said that milk would leak from me while my baby nestled at Naomi’s breasts. Even if I loved her with the love of seven sons (and I’m not saying that I don’t)
I’d not relinquish my child.
Not without regret so strong that it paralyzes and silences me. Forever.
THE HANDMAID'S TALE (RUTH)
Time for a different kind of harvest. Sated with bread and beer
Boaz and his men sleep deeply on the fragrant hay.
The floor doesn’t creak.
When Boaz wakes, his eyes gleam with unshed tears.
He is no longer young, maybe forty; his face is lined
as Mahlon's never became.
Who are you? he asks
and I hear an echoing question: who is it? what is it? who speaks? Spread your wings over me, I reply and his cloak billows high.
Now he clasps my foreign hand and kisses the tips of my fingers now skin glides against skin
and the seed of salvation grows in me the outsider, the forbidden
we move from lack to fullness we sweeten our own story
and as my belly swells I pray
that the day come speedily and soon when we won't need to distinguish Israel from Moab
the sun’s radiance from the moon’s
Boaz’s square fingers
from my smaller olive hands amen, amen, selah.
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Yes, daughter, go, said Naomi,
and so off Ruth went, out from Bethlehem, to the fields of barley,
the fields of Boaz.
All that long day Naomi waited, weak with hunger
Had she been younger or stronger,
she, too, might have gone—
to glean amidst the grain for bits of kindness.
But Naomi was not young;
she was not strong;
so in Bethlehem she stayed and slept,
dreaming, sometimes, of the younger woman, hidden among the sheaves, perhaps never to emerge
With every dream
panic pulsed through Naomi’s blood until she wakened to see before her Ruth, and food, and
The First Night
on what would be their last night together, till death they did part—
Boaz and Ruth lay in slumber, each, in parallel,
dreaming back to that first night, on the threshing floor
beside the grain pile.
He’d been sleeping when she, in stealth, tiptoed to where he rested,
uncovered his feet
and curled up at his toes. When he awoke,
they spoke, first;
then they slid, slowly,
into the space that, unbeknownst to either, they would share forever
in time, and text, and tradition.