The Sabbath Bee

Prose Poems for the Seventh Day

by Wilhelmina Gottschalk


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About this book

“Torah, say our sages, has seventy faces. As these prose poems reveal, so too does Shabbat. Here we meet Shabbat as familiar housemate, as the child whose presence transforms a family (sometimes in ways that outsiders can’t understand), as a spreading tree, as an annoying friend who insists on being celebrated, as a child throwing water balloons, as a woman, as a man, as a bee, as the ocean… Through the lens of these deft, surprising, moving prose poems, all seventy of Shabbat’s faces shine.”

—Rachel Barenblat

"The Day After Purim"

Shabbat arrives as usual, dressed in silk with her hair and make-up beautifully arranged.

The room is a mess, and with the exception of a pair of candles glowing on the table it seems that nothing has been prepared.

“What is this?” Shabbat demands. “You knew I was coming! Where is my welcome?”

I scramble, bleary-eyed, to a seated position on the couch. “I’m sorry—really sorry Shabbat, but last night your little brother came in from Persia. He kept me up all night partying. Then this morning he pulls me out of bed again, just a few hours after I fell asleep. He’s exhausting!”

“Oh, him.” Shabbat settles beside me on the couch. “Did the two of you have a good time, at least?”

“He’s a fabulous guy.” I lean into her, nuzzling her neck. “But I’m glad you’re here now.”

"Running Over"

Shabbat remains bottled all week, shelved and corked, but present. On Friday night it is unstopped and released into the world, filling every cup in the house and spilling over the table’s edge.

Shabbat continues pouring out, drenching my fingers and seeping into my shoes. Soon the entire house will be ankle-deep in Shabbat.

After the front door crashes open, Shabbat continues to pour out into the world.

"The Sabbath bee"

All day I have been traveling from flower to flower, distracted by every bright color under the sun. Now as darkness falls I lay down my burdens, the collected pollen of a day’s work, and I give myself over to a welcoming family and the sweetness of rest.