Dinah Took a Walk One Lovely Day

 

This week’s poem, entitled Dinah Took a Walk One Lovely Day, is inspired by the horrifying incident in Parashat Vayishlach, in which Jacob and Leah’s daughter Dinah “went out to see the daughters of the land.” While it’s not exactly clear where she went or what she was doing, the commentators tell us that the act of a beautiful young woman going out in public constituted provocative and inappropriate behavior. And, they say, as a consequence, Dinah is raped by Shechem.

It’s hardly a shock to read that Rashi and others blame Dinah for the act of violence perpetrated against her. If only she hadn’t been so beautiful. If only she’d remained in her father’s tent. As if rape is about beauty or that a rapist won’t find opportunities to hurt women wherever they may be. The shock would’ve been if they’d said: If only Shechem wasn’t such a violent creep. If only men treated women with respect. And, as much as one can view the misogynistic reasoning of our sages as the product of a certain time in history, it’s the same vile way of thinking that perpetuates to this day throughout much of the world, including, it seems, after January 20th of this year, the White House.

I was angry when I started writing about this topic. And, after producing a fiery first draft–a long, harsh screed in free verse–I realized that in order to infuse some coherence into my thoughts and focus my anger in a productive way, I needed to impose the discipline of formal verse. So, I chose, instead, to write a villanelle.

A villanelle is a nineteen-line poem with five 3-line stanzas (tercets) and a closing 4-line stanza (quatrain) with two rhymes throughout, with the first and third lines of the opening tercet recurring alternately at the end of the other tercets and with both repeated at the close of the concluding quatrain. I know that may seem confusing, but if you read the poem you’ll get it.

By forcing me to corral my anger and focus it into words that fit the strict confines of the villanelle form, I was able to produce a poem that expresses, ultimately, sadness. Sadness, for what happened to Dinah. Sadness for a world in which some men treat women like pieces of meat. Sadness that, almost four thousand years removed from the rape of Dinah, the world remains a dangerous place for a woman to take a walk on a lovely day.

 

Dinah Took a Walk One Lovely Day

Dinah took a walk one lovely day.
But darkness soon eclipsed the warming sun.
To some men, women are no more than prey.

He saw a piece of meat, a fresh filet.
And snatched her from the road, that’s how it’s done.
Dinah took a walk one lovely day.

Who knows if she screamed no, she had no say.
He would not stop until the deed was done.
To some men, women are no more than prey.

And who was she, a girl, to disobey?
If only she’d been one of Jacob’s sons.
Dinah took a walk one lovely day.

Her deepest fear was they’d cast her away.
Damaged goods, no good to anyone.
To some men, women are no more than prey.

The price of evil falls on her to pay.
Where was God? Maybe there is none.
Dinah took a walk one lovely day.

To some men, women are no more than prey.

3 comments on “Dinah Took a Walk One Lovely Day

  1. 900windows says:

    I just commented on Hevriabook – will copy it here –

    “Coincidentally, I was thinking about Dinah last night. A while back, .i read a book which maintained thst Dinah wasn’t raped but was ‘madly in love’. Er, I wonder where/why the author came up withthat? It bothered me on several levels, not least having been raped myself. I know there are are various interpretations of things, but this feels a star far too far too far…….why do you think that was done.?”

    I should hav read your villanelle first. Really, the words which sum up my feelings are “thank you”.

    For every one who understands, such as yourself, it raises my self worth just a wee bit.

    Thank you……

    Alex

    Like

  2. Amanda says:

    I love form in poetry, this is a very nice Villanelle. My favorite poetry form is the Sestina. So many feel that form is constricting, however I feel strongly that form pushes us to be creative in ways we have not yet undertaken and removes us from the box of our own thinking. Kind of how halacha can be. Write on! Thank you.

    Like

    • Thanks for the kind comment Amanda. I’m pleased you liked the poem. I also like writing in more formal styles from time to time. I’ve written some sestinas and a number of vllanelles as well as a few sonnets. Unfortunately, I’ve got a bad ear for meter and find it challenging to stay within these various forms. It’s not my forte but I’m working on it. I definitely agree that the restrictive nature of formal poetry does force/stimulate creativity.

      Like

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