Santa Teresa

Schulamith Chava Halevy

How you shudder on my skin.

What scenes from our past
remain sealed in
you, what roots still not

Pine trees and
sunflower patches
and olive groves
embrace me now
— the meadows of your life
Yellow hills — pure skies.

What visions of Jerusalem
— the skirts of Galilee
flow still through your blood?
What voices came from the hereafter
to distill your tears?


Alone with your secrets.
What refuge could the masses
offer your tormented soul?
What sanctity could you be seeking
in the shrines of Sheol.

When they called
you Santa,
did your
shame cry

Temple whore?


Who knew your bed of vows
In musty stonewalled nights
What is it that you conjure in your dreams?

hands, blades
a hellish phosphorous glow
sow evil in your flesh

Now disappearing under habit.

What did you do
with the horrors
when you tired

Light some candles
chase the bats
that keep calling in the

Your childhood pillaged by the roadside...

How many forms of rape
brought you here


Bleeding blades of grass
why did the angel tarry?
What remains
of the innocence that was
where can you go from here
Teresa de Jesus?
Fast you wed yourself to them
Till death doth part.

Then you created an order
what order did you have
to whom did you entrust
your truth?

Vengeance you sought
     from deep within
         — measure for measure
but the halo festered round you.
But a step there was between you and death
(why did the angel come?)
But the halo bore its glow in you like leprosy
ashes of victims of autos de fe
forever engulfing Avila's air

No water to cleanse you.


Tormented descalza
with your dozen sisters
and Juan de la Cruz
your confidante,

Though not over the law of Moses
you are always suspect
all your loves oppressed, hermana
all your loves oppressed.

Juan de la Cruz
himself a New Christian
takes your hand into his
whispers about
the long night which
would purge your soul
and how in the end
Will come through


Now you cloister yourself
in the dragon's lair
lock and barrel
vanquished you kneel
alone you weep.

Who might comprehend
the depth of your torment

In the dungeons of your grief
secretly you mend your rents
embroider for yourself
new angel wings.


What Hebrew name were you given
Santa Teresa de Avila
What name did your mother whisper in your ear
about whom did she sing ballads
through chilling childhood eves?

Many days you tormented your flesh
neither bread nor water
seeking mending for other torments
ever waning
Many days you agonized over the
voices that ceased calling
how would you plead you people's case
before the king of kings?

And so did your maidens fast
all twelve
Tears and supplication
Do you still remember, Esterika
how your mother sang to you about
the queen of anusim
Oh violated flesh and spirit
did you toil in vain for
an Iberian Purim?


El dia grande
Behold the friars
set out on their Devil's dance
like ravens in hunt
they close in on your people.

Prostrate before the Icon
what whips your spirit
you must hide
from the Crucified
looming over you
Hush! your cries
must not leave your lips.

Kol Nidrei
Santa Teresa of Avila
Sister in bondage
the Lord of the Hebrews will come
to release you from all your vows.