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Tambourine Woman

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She stood in the muddy reeds. She stood in the warm water up to her waist and watched over her baby brother. His basket slipped up and down on the water.

She watched, but she was not quiet. Miriam was not a quiet girl. There were quiet girls. They slipped from shadow to shadow and let their brothers talk. Her brother was a baby. He couldn't talk. All he could do was gurgle as his basket went swish in the reeds.

She could talk. She talked to the water and she talked to the reeds. She slapped the water with her stick to let anything out there know that someone was watching over her brother and no one was going to hurt him. Not if she had anything to say.

She always had something to say. She wrote a song about it. She sang it to herself as she watched.

When Pharaoh's daughter came, she walked right up. Muddy water dripped off her clothes. She said, "Hello. Need a nursemaid. I know a woman." She smiled big and she smiled serious, because this was serious.

She hummed the song of this under the breath. Miriam was never quiet.


Mud on her sandals, she played her tambourine.

Her brother sang to the men. "Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea." His voice was thin and cracked, but the men answered him. He should have had Aaron sing for him. She could have told him that. Would have told him that, but she had her own song to sing.

She sang to the women. "Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea." Her voice rang out like a high trumpet that calls the people home. She sang and the women answered her.

The men's voices were a wave. The women's voices were the wind.

They all danced on the shore. Muddy freedom on their feet and the women played their tambourines.

There was nothing quiet at all.


Miriam walked among the women. She walked with metal sewn into her skirts that jingled as she walked. The other women wore them too. Their steps sang to each other as they walked the desert. She heard the song of it and she sang it.

She carried her well strapped across her belly like a baby. If she'd see a child with dry lips, she'd put down the well and sing, "Spring up, O well, sing ye unto it. Spring up. Spring up." She didn't have to sing it, but she sang it. She'd say to the child, "You should drink." The child would drink.

She'd hear the voice of the Lord as he called them to the tabernacle. She'd sing to the women and they would go to the tabernacle. There they would sing. The men would sing their songs. The women would sing their songs. They would sing her songs.

She'd walk among the women and talk with them. Her steps would jingle and her voice would be the wind over her steps. They'd ask for her opinion or they wouldn't, but she gave it. Miriam was never quiet. She was what the Lord had made her to be.

There were quiet women. They slipped from shadow to shadow, but that was not her. She walked in the desert and told the water, "Go come on out." It came out.

She walked with her brothers and she'd say, "We should ask directions." But they never did. She'd say, "What do mean you're marrying a Cushite! Do you even speak Cushite?"

If sometimes, she was struck with boils and went white as snow and had to live outside the camp, what of it. She was as the Lord made her. She walked and she carried the well. She put it on the ground and she played her tambourine. She sang the song of their steps.

If they wanted any water, they could come and listen to her.