Climbing the Ladder

by Janet R. Kirchheimer (New York, NY)

Who opens a negotiation with, “I will work
for your younger daughter Rachel for seven years.”
Offer to work for a year, maybe two,
then settle on three or four.
After seven years of labor, what does Jacob get?
Leah, the older sister.
Their father, Laban, tells him, “It is not the practice
in our place to marry off the younger before the older.”
Says he’ll give him Rachel if he serves another seven years.
What choice does Jacob have?

Take a look at Joseph.
He interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and tells him
a great famine is coming, tells Pharaoh he needs
someone to run the country.
So Pharaoh appoints him viceroy.
Now there’s a man who knows how to get ahead.
He even gets a wife for free, doesn’t have to work a stitch for her.
Of course, his descendants end up as slaves in Egypt
for two hundred and ten years, but that’s another story.

Janet R. Kirchheimer, a teaching fellow at Clal, is the author of How to Spot One of Us (2007), a collection of poems about her family and the Shoah. Her poems and essays have appeared in several journals such as the Connecticut Review and Limestone, as well as online at Beliefnet and drafthorse, where this poem first appeared. It’s reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.

For more about Kirchheimer’s work, visit:

1 Comment

Filed under history, Jewish identity, poetry

One response to “Climbing the Ladder

  1. Raquel Solomon

    Excellent poem!

    Irony was alive in the Old Testament

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