Wild Lectionary: Tears Cannot Water the Land


Credit: Clancy Dunigan

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’

Exodus 14:20-21

By Tevyn East and Jay Beck

John: “She died in a dry place, yet the spring followed her.
It followed her everywhere 
like a lover, easing us to rest,
springing from hidden places
 in our wanderings.

Always, we were thirsty.

 by our wailing, she’d stamp her feet. Even from the pools of her heel prints
 we drank.

Once in anguish
 she beat the rocks with her bare hands
 again and again, weeping.
Water gushed, soaking her hair, her robe. She cupped her hands, rinsed her mouth,
spat; she splashed, she played.
Laughing, we filled our bellies.
She was the one we followed, who knew each of us by name.

Healing rose from her touch as drink
 from the deep, as song from her throat.

She was the well.

In our hearts
 we called her not Miriam, bitter sea, but Mayim, water.”

Miriam: “Water- ancient life-giver
dimension of Earth
formed in the beginning,
it is our beginning
in circulation from the start,
a fixed supply that is eternally renewing.

Water- it is, by its own right
it is, by its own reality”
“up to my waist in Nile water, I watch
I can hear the soft cries of my baby brother. Moses, our beloved, floating in an ark pitched with bitumen.

Moses, re-emerges from the river currents with a new future. From the river, is born a new future for my people.

Pharaoh’s daughter, that princess, that spark of defiance
Her heart is hooked
disobedience calls out like a woman’s song, calls out against a cruel system,
I walk out of the river,
I am Miriam, daughter of Israel.”

My song… my song is the body song and the body song rings true. The body song sings us through. This body that has had slavery strapped to its back, grief tucked in its arms, bitterness choking the throat, a thousand hopes piercing the chest, This body song remembers so much.

Our striving, our singing, our Red Sea crossing was not complete without the body song- a long spiralling dance, that stretched to God and to the future.
The Women followed me and we sang completeness, sang deliverance, tasted a joy and climbed it up the spiralling dance.. oh ecstasy… we are safe… oh ecstasy.. we are free… oh exult.. the warring man has been thrown into the sea, the warring man has been swallowed by the sea

The striving, our singing, our Red Sea crossing was a mighty triumph of faith, yet it was only just the beginning. We had so very much to learn. My people had so very much to learn.

My people have so very much to learn.

Miriam’s Chant: I dreamt the Nile River as a fallopian tube
I birthed new life pushed out of the red sea’s womb
the groaning of the earth is inside the women’s song
we who know the birth pangs and labor and have for so long
we who renew life every time it’s cut down
through our blood, through our sweat, in our wailing sound
the divine feminine is begging you to understand
when you ravish the earth, the womb dries up like desert sand
the integrity of the water is the health of the land
you erode her flesh into infertile hardpan
when will you stop? when will these actions be banned?
My tears alone cannot water the land.

A lot of Miriam’s words in “Wade in Deep Water” are spin offs of and elaborations on Jewish feminist Alicia Suskin Ostriker’s poem “The Songs of Miriam,” from her book The Nakedness of the Fathers. Miriam’s chant is our own composition. We see her passage and the passage of her people connected to the exploitation and redemption of water.
Tevyn East integrates her artistic gifts with faith-led resistance through her production company Holy Fool Arts. She produced and performed a one-woman show entitled “Leaps and Bounds” that critiques the growth-oriented economy and its impact on the earth, and which toured to more than 150 communities around North America and was made into a film in 2011. She is the director of the Carnival de Resistance, a traveling carnival, village, and school that focuses on ecological justice and radical theology.

Jay Beck is a percussionist, vocalist, drum-maker, and educator who has been performing, teaching, touring and recording professionally for many years, including as a member of the band Psalters. He seeks to aid resistance movements and develop reconciliation through studying the art forms and spirituality of oppressed nomadic and indigenous communities. He is a core organizer for the Carnival de Resistance and collaborates with his partner Tevyn East in Philadelphia to present theater that emphasizes the voice of the divine inside creation.

Wild Lectionary is a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in scripture, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.

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