Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Hannah Cries Out from the Grave

by Laura Altshul

Devout woman of fertile Galilee
yet barren like the Negev,
I prayed to conceive and finally,
finally my prayer was answered.

Old to bear, grown fat with pride,
I loosed my garments,
my breasts become melons
heavy with the future.

I screamed in labor, ecstatic,
grasped her slippery mass;
I sheathed her body to mine.

We breathed as one;
no wet nurse for her
despite my stinging teats.

We slept as one; she was always there
everywhere I went: temple, market, 
inhaling my prayers, 
my cooking fires, my sweat.

I worshipped her body,
kissed her in adoration,
savoring the smooth silken skin,
her sweet smells and stinks.

She was golden, beloved, full of grace
and I knew her like no other.
But fear raced my blood. 

First she crawled, then walked, then ran,
grown visible to our tribe
and those who decided she was chosen
to bring forth a king.

Called to the sanctuary in Jerusalem
when she was only three,
charged to give her up,
I had to coax her to go on 
within without me.

It was a bad bargain.

How my arms ached for her,
my body an empty cave.
I heard she was betrothed 
at age fourteen.

I never saw her then,
nor later my grandson,
destined for divine torture.
I died years before.

Centuries later my name, Hannah, 
meaning grace, became Anna, 
then Anne, and now, 
now my legacy sainted:
Saint Anne, worshipped 
for my goodness—

a lie; for I, I am sore with rage,
bones riddled with hate
even now past my worm-eaten flesh.


SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Laura Altshul’s

poetry volume, Searching for the Northern Lights, was published in the summer of 2015 by Antrim House. She has published poems in Connecticut River Review, The Perch, and in the anthology Forgotten Women (Grayson Press). Her poem “Last Visit” won first prize in the Al Savard Memorial Contest. She was the featured poet in the half-hour public TV program Speaking of Poetry: Presentations by the Poets of Antrim House (Episode 36), now available on YouTube.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury