A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

Back to Issue Five


Exodus by Pamela Wax


My brother-in-law insisted they are free

agents, doing it willingly. That’s not slavery,

he said, accusing me of spreading fake news

across the divided sea of my seder table,


along with the vegetarian chopped liver.

The statistics were sitting there next to the four

questions and the ten plagues in the Slavery Today

section of my xeroxed haggadah: how many


girls and women are sex-trafficked, shipped

across borders to service randy men

at Super Bowls and conventions—

Democratic, Republican, you name it.


I stared at Elijah’s untouched cup of wine

as my other guests swirled horseradish

on their plates, holding their breath.

Sitting next to his father, my nephew, nearly


adult, the one who hadn’t thought to remove,

or be embarrassed by, the bare-breasted

posters on his otherwise naked wall when I’d

dropped by his dorm the previous month.


I wondered if they were complicit in the lie

of willing female flesh, if my nephew

had been egged on by his father

to get some, that I was threatening their bond.


I’d told my nephew then, nodding at his fleshy

walls, You know women are more

than tits and ass. He’d snorted at my crassness,

averted his eyes. I had to say something


to his father, whom I know to be a good and decent

man, devoted to his children, to my sister, to me.

It was Passover, the night of defying fetters of

bondage. I didn’t want to play nice to Pharaoh.


My other company surely expected

a seasoning of decorum with their salt water

and kugels. Seder means “order,” after all.

But I was thinking about those women,


on planes with well-dressed handlers

or sardined in vans crossing state lines.

And about the Hebrew slaves whose exodus

would be hollow if not to instruct us in vigilance


even now, don’t you think? But what I managed

was, Let’s open the door for Elijah, the Prophet.

And there, the sky, full-mooned and bright, pierced

me, eternity in space and time, its bigness,


thinking of the evil that would go on forever

despite me, ancient like the desert and the Red Sea.

Pamela Wax

Pamela Wax is the author of Walking the Labyrinth (Main Street Rag, 2022) and the forthcoming chapbook, Starter Mothers (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have received awards from Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Paterson Literary Review, Oberon Poetry Magazine and the Robinson Jeffers Tor House and have been published in literary journals including Barrow Street, Connecticut River Review, Naugatuck River Review, The Poets’ Billow, Pedestal, Tupelo Quarterly, Sixfold, and Passengers Journal. Her essays on Judaism, spirituality, and women’s issues have also been published broadly. Pam, an ordained rabbi, facilitates online spiritual poetry writing and spiritual journeying workshops from her home in the Northern Berkshires of Massachusetts.



Pamela Wax