East Wind, West Wind

For the eighth plague,

Moses once more stretched out his rod

over Egypt at God’s command.

And the East Wind became God’s other messenger,

bringing a gigantic swarm of locusts to cover the land.

There was darkness that spoke

with the rustle of millions of wings,

the skitter of millions of tiny feet,

the grinding of millions of mouths

until all that was green in the land was devoured.

And when Pharaoh relented for a time,

the West Wind cleansed the land of the locusts,

blew them into the Red Sea,

which became black with them,

and the fish rose to the surface of the sea

and devoured them in turn.

The fishermen of that coast

said the fish of that year

grew to three times the size

of those of the years before and after.

Later the East Wind was the Hebrews’ salvation,

when it raised up the waters of the Red Sea

to make walls on their right hand and on their left,

leaving the damp path between,

the escape route from Egypt to Sinai’s desert.

And when they had passed,

the West Wind collapsed the waters

onto the pursuing Egyptians and tore off

their chariot wheels and drowned them.

Still later, in the desert,

it was the East Wind that brought the manna

from heaven to feed the people,

and the West Wind that brought the flock of quail,

the single serving dropped from the sky.

The East Wind and the West Wind

are the hands of God.

The one brought the locusts

and the other swept them away.

So it is, when a person is to be born,

the East Wind carries his soul to earth,

and when he dies, the West Wind

carries it back to where it came from.

And so it was the West Wind

that went sweeping through Egypt

to execute the final plague,

carrying off all the first-born sons,

from prince to lowest servant.

And the Hebrews huddled safe

behind their blood-smeared doorways

and heard the wind roar.

Keith Tornheim, January, 2019