Sunday 6 February 2022

Miriam Dancing—After a Painting of Miriam by Marc Chagall

by Jan Zlotnik Schmidt

I never danced like this.
Decked out   baring my breasts
for some man’s pleasure.

Who does he think I am?

One of Gaughin’s native girls?
Part of his harem?  All of us circling,
hands clapped  above our heads.

Who am I to him?  A muse?  A figure
plastered on a white canvas board?
Roses  doves anemones swirling round.

I am not his feckless dream.

What happened to the desert?
To my feet pressed into sand?  To timbrel and lyre?
To my words echoing off pink rocky cliffs?

To songs spilling from a woman’s mouth?
To light spilling from clouds?
To a chorus of hallelujahs

quenching an unquenchable thirst? 
I say no more throttled tongues.
I will sing, be still, then dance.

* * * * *

Here is a link to the painting that inspired the poem:

Jan Zlotnik Schmidt is a retired SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of English SUNY New Paltz. She has published works in Alaska Quarterly Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Cream City Review, The Vassar Review, and other journals. Two volumes of poetry were published by the Edwin Mellen Press: We Speak in Tongues and She had this memory.  Her poetry volume, Foraging for Light, was published by Finishing Line Press.  Most recently her poetry chapbook about Bess Houdini was published by Palooka Press.  Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Check out her work at

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