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Deborah Bacharach

Given a Choice

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Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife.
--Genesis 16:3

Hagar might have chosen to be alone
in a cell with white bricks and a candle
silently sitting zazen with the clouds
and the fractals, coherent
if you hold them and listen,
if you just sit.

That's what Hagar wanted, her soul—
no child no master no mistress no fucking
years of slavery the middle passage
dancing with whiskey in her veins
legs spread by the master in the chains
the fiddle cat gut across her broken back.

She makes a mean corn cake.
She did not get bit by a rabid dog.
If she has something to say, she'll say it to an angel.

A Word For It

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You raped me, a man kept telling
his girlfriend that morning in Vegas
after the room service, roses, and wine.

He didn't mean rape; he meant ravaged,
almost exactly the same, sex
reared against will like a bear
with outstretched claws, unless
racing through a romantic fantasy,
your will spills to desire, and you find yourself
in a maelstrom of pleasure.

That's what he meant to imply
though even ravaged a ribald laugh, he
an equal collaborative partner.

But, roots, connotation, etymology,
matter. Words carry them around
like a Vegas hooker with her
fake leather purse of survival,
with her fake id under a plastic cover,
her real id tucked in a hidden pocket
as she high heels it through hot grit.

What the Bible calls Hagar matters.
You remember her. She is the woman
a wife gives her husband to give him the children
guaranteed by God. She's not asked
her opinion or even paid a percentage.
There's a word for it.

Not abuddah, slave or servant,
though she is both.
She is not called amah,
maidservant or concubine—
that might have implied less time
scrubbing, a rose or two--

or pileges, the one who provides
sexual services because
procreation not recreation,
the core of this story.

Sifhah, the Bible calls Hagar
maidservant of the mistress,
like shifthah, someone who joins
the clan, or the verb
to pour out blood.

Hagar, neither raped, no legal crime,
nor ravaged, pleasure unaddressed,
clearly taken
in service to the mistress.

The Bible gives her the word that grants her
the dignity of a parasol in the desert.

Hagar Despised Sarai

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Hagar looked with contempt on her mistress.
--Genesis 16:4

We only have Sarai's word on that.
Spiteful, malicious,
reckless eyeballing.

Maybe Hagar just wanted
to pee without
her blood pressure, protein, glucose

Hagar's Banishment

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So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
--Genesis 21:14

Before she hits the wilderness,
Hagar considers a pay phone and her last quarter
just to hear his voice.

In the growing dark,
her eyes dilate, but she doesn't need
to see to walk.

She looks alone. The earth curves
back in on itself, the corn stalk
graying and falling down,

the pheasants poking the last seeds
until their bodies also tumble and fall
in the season of lost feathers.

Hagar's breath like a Monarch
not yet extinct.

Light as petals, the dust from her footsteps.
She seems to be whistling, Non, rien de rien,
je ne regrette rien.

What Hagar Said That We Have All Said

I'm never going back.

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