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Barbara Edelman: Lot’s Wife

“Arise, take thy wife and thy two daughters that are here; lest thou be swept away in the
iniquity of the city. Escape for thy life; look not behind thee,”

—Angels to Lot, Genesis: 19


“But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”

I was drowsing through Sunday school
to Mrs. Schiff’s twang, dreaming
that I fled the burning city
in a long robe and sandals
with a family and a few goats.

That salt pillar
jolted me from my snooze.

Sammy Kane called Mrs. Schiff
Old Vacuum Cleaner Nose. Sammy
was truly bad. God would have turned him
to salt whether he looked back or not.

Through the classroom window,
I watched one cow grazing
on the far side of the parking lot.
I was thinking Lot was an odd name.

I was inhabiting the horror
of becoming a salt pillar, white
as a giant cigarette. Going from girl
to salt. Not me anymore.

And if an antelope were to lick me,
I wouldn’t feel it..

I thought how I loved the fullness
of being me.
And now I look back


to see that recognition,
that love,
was the lesson I took
from the salt pillar tale.


and I scrapped the one
that says, choose
between blind obedience
and obliteration.


We flee from our city like thieves.
How can I help but look back
to see it burning as if struck
by lightning, the whole desert aglow
with its heat, tumbleweed aflame, rolling
towards us like a giant head on fire?


Why did I disobey, you ask?
Why did I look back?


Why are those the questions?
Why don’t I have a name?


Poem from All the Hanging Wrenches by Barbara Edelman (CMU Press, 2022).

Image by Treasures of the Bible, Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D., published by International Publishing Company, 1894: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/

Barbara Edelman is a writer and teacher living in Pittsburgh, PA. Her full-length poetry collections include All the Hanging Wrenches (2022) and Dream of the Gone-From City (2017), both from Carnegie Mellon University Press. 

2 comments on “Barbara Edelman: Lot’s Wife

  1. Sara Faye Marten
    May 22, 2023

    Beautiful thoughts Barbara. No matter what our age but to feel the experience,the excitement. To question the why’s. So strong, so powerful.

    Liked by 2 people

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