Jill Hammer

Leah, or, the Real

“And YHWH saw that Leah was hated, and he opened her womb.”
Gen. 29:31

You don’t like to look at me.
I’m the world you got, not the one you wanted.

I was the one under the veil all along;
misshapen womb for all that perfect seed,
all your love wasted.
You’ll never forgive me.

You hate me for keeping you from the beloved,
And yet, I’m the one who birthed
a few things you hoped would come to pass.
You can’t squeeze much
out of your faultless idol,
but I have an astonishing fecundity.

Each of my imperfect creations
reminds you of how you don’t love me enough,
don’t put enough work
into appreciating what you have.
You hate me for being what you’ve got
but my, will you be sorry when I’m gone.
I promise
you’ll bury me next to you.

Something’s not quite right
about the face I show you:
the eyes don’t match.
Your gaze can’t alight
on my asymmetrical form

as I lean muttering over the laundry
what you don’t know and can’t learn:

I am right now birthing another beginning
you could treasure.

My all-too-solid legs
are pillars of the temple:
praise comes out between them.






As the Ark of YHWH entered the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and whirling before YHWH; and she despised him for it.


The Ark passes her window;
David owns it,
shouts and dances.
She knows it for a sham:
the old shrines are outside the city.
The holy does not fit within these walls.

Her heart breaks
like a vial of frankincense.
The maidservants all can see it--
power crowing naked on its dunghill.

She reminds herself: there are psalms
the king has not written
and harps he has not played.

She has no throne
that anyone will honor
no child
that David will acknowledge

but ancestors will sleep in her bed
cedar and hyssop will conspire with her
and her daughters will be legion.





Spring Prayer

The long necks of the cherry trees
stretch toward the lake:
cranes, egrets, geese
with wings of feather-flowers
blazing in the sun.

This canopy of intermittent blessing
above the heads of the passers-by
marries them to the day

as blossoms sing from a thousand soft goblet throats:
there is only one grain in the hourglass.
This almost-wilted instant is the only instant.

O let this moment-season be enough—
the cherry blossoms pray--
let it be enough
to people springs to come.





Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, is the Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion, and the co-founder of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute.  She is the author of a number of books, including Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical WomenThe Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for all SeasonsThe Hebrew Priestess: Ancient and New Visions of Jewish Women’s Spiritual Leadership (with Taya Shere), and a book of poems, The Book of Earth and Other Mysteries.  She lives in New York City with her wife and daughter.