You Drew Him from the Water

Detail: Discovery of Moses by Paul Delaroche [Public Domain]
Detail: Discovery of Moses by Paul Delaroche [Public Domain]

I: Yocheved

Hands tarred
with pitch and clay
you carried him
to the river
that should have been
his grave.

You waded into the water,
a dark stain seeping
up the hems of your robe,
currents tugged your feet downriver but you
planted your toes in the mud
as you set the basket on the water
and looked into his eyes.

You choked on your prayer
that the river would carry him
somewhere other than death.

And then
you let

II: Miriam

You crouched
amid the bulrushes,
watched him
as he drifted

You must have known
that you were powerless.
From the riverbank you
would see the jaws
of the crocodile snap;
from the riverbank
you would watch the basket
snagged in a fisher’s net—

From the riverbank
even a gentle nudge from an oar
could overturn everything,
the depths would claim him
and you would go home to your mother
tell her
it had all been in vain.

you watched

III: Bitya

You heard him before you saw him.

A gurgling cry
reaching across the river
from the reeds.

You heard that sound
and you stretched your arm,
drew the basket from the water;
the skin of your hands,
pristine as the desert sand,
tarred with pitch;
lifting the lid,
you knew
what was inside.

From your father’s
marble throne room
it was easy
not to see them,
not to see their backs,
red and black streaks
still bleeding;
not to hear
the howls of pain that softened
to grunts and sighs
over the lilting flutes;
not to smell
the sour sweat that sloughed
from their bodies as their bones
cracked beneath the bricks
over the scent of frankincense
and balsam perfume

But here
in this basket
in your arms,
a child weeps,
and you
can’t look

About the Author
Daniella Levy is the author of By Light of Hidden Candles and Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism. Her next novel, Disengagement, is forthcoming from Kasva Press. Born in the USA, she immigrated to Israel as a child, and currently lives at the edge of the Judean Desert with her husband and three sons. You can learn more about Daniella and her work at
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