In “Moses split the red sea, but still, there was no path,” we are drawn in by a murmuring voice. An old story, but Ottavia Paluch makes it new. The poem’s voice almost seems private, half-thoughts folding in on one another, occasionally surfacing to speak to us, then again, turning away. It is a voice that lives at a bus stop, quoting Old Testament passages, sometimes audibly, sometimes not. “…I was–/ no miracle. At least I tried,” says the poem, and we are drawn in, to see just why, and how. “I thought of myself / as one of those daughter plants” writes Paluch,” Quenched. Believed.” And indeed, we believe.
— Sophie Klahr
Moses split the red sea, but still, there was no path
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.
I’m not sure who I would’ve belonged to. There’s
the army. The ones who crossed. The
skeptic, because perhaps it all was—and I was—
no miracle. At least I tried. At least
I could drag myself through desert roads, through propagation.
But when the tide rises, I help little but the schools of fish, so that
they can survive. Instead, I prayed–there was a saint in my view,
and I wanted to look holy enough to be worthy of death.
I asked for obedience. I colonized. I thought of myself
as one of those daughter plants. Quenched. Believed. My
thoughts soon rested in no oasis, but rather a place where they may have
never been seen before. So that I would be no sea;
so that Moses might not raise his staff
Ottavia Paluch lives in Ontario, Canada. Her work is forthcoming or published in Alexandria Quarterly, The Daphne Review, Body Without Organs, in Navigating The Maze’s 2018 anthology, and Bitter Melon.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Ashleigh Elden (Mamaroneck HS, Mamaroneck, NY); Liliana Greyf (Horace Mann School, Bronx, NY); Esther Kim (Holton-Arms School, Bethesda, MD); Katherine Lee (Conestoga HS, Berwyn, PA); Eva Murillo (Walter Payton College Prep, Chicago, IL); Juliana Pratofiorito (Marymount School, New York City, NY); Saniah Wilson (North HS, Torrance, CA); Kaitlyn Zhou (Neuqua Valley HS, Naperville, IL); Vincent Gomez, Maia Tasker, Elyse Thomas, Emmanuel Ortiz-Ochoa (Miami Arts Charter School, Miami, FL)