Saturday, April 3, 2010
14. the RED TENT
Anita Diamant 1997
A biblical fiction that remarkably expands the life of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob and brother of Joseph. It is effectively told through Dinah's memories of Jacob's four wives, thus Dinah's four mothers: Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilah. The red tent refers to the place where women commune and spend their time celebrating fertility during the first three days of their monthly cycle.
"We have been lost to each other for so long. My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust. This is not your fault, or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed to the keeping of men, we had no way of knowing. That is why I became a footnote, my story a brief detour between the well-known history of my father, Jacob, and the celebrated chronicle of Joseph, my brother."
"Maybe you guessed that there was more to me than the voiceless cipher in the text. Maybe you heard it in the music of my name: the first vowel very high and clear, as when a mother calls to her child at dusk; the second sound soft, for whispering secrets on pillows. Dee-nah."
"We listened to them sing herding songs, addressed to the night sky and filled with tales of the constellations. They heard our spinning songs, which we sang as we walked and worked wool with small spindles. We applauded one another and laughed together. It was time out of life. It was like a dream."
"They sang the words in unison, yet somehow created a web of sound with their voices. It was like hearing a piece of fabric woven with all the colors of the rainbow. I did not know that such beauty could be formed by the human mouth. I had never heard harmony before."
"I say this before the proper time, daughter of mine, though it will not be long before you enter the tent to celebrate with me and your aunties. You will become a woman surrounded by loving hands to carry you and to catch your first blood and to make sure it goes back to the womb of Innana, to the dust that formed the first man and the first woman. The dust that was mixed with her moon blood."
"There was a great gift that my teachers learned from the women of Shechem's valley. It was not an herb or a tool, but a birth song, and the most soothing balm that Inna or Rachel had ever used. It made laboring women breathe easier and caused the skin to stretch rather than tear. It eased the worst pains."
"Why had no one told me that my body would become a battlefield, a sacrifice, a test? Why did I not know that birth is the pinnacle where women discover the courage to become mothers?"
"I will remember you in the morning and in the evening, everyday until I close my eyes forever. I forgive your every harsh thought of me and the curses you may hurl at my name. And when at last you do forgive me, I forbid you to suffer a moment's guilt in my name. I ask that you remember only my blessing upon you, Bar-Shalem Re-mose."