Published on Academy of American Poets (

Letter to Noah’s Wife

You are never mentioned on Ararat
or elsewhere, but I know a woman’s hand
in salvation when I see it. Lately,
I’m torn between despair and ignorance.
I’m not a vegetarian, shop plastic,
use an air conditioner. Is this what happens
before it all goes fluvial? Do the selfish
grow self-conscious by the withering
begonias? Lately, I worry every black dress
will have to be worn to a funeral.
New York a bouillon, eroded filigree.
Anything but illness, I beg the plagues,
but shiny crows or nuclear rain.
Not a drop in London May through June.
I bask in the wilt by golden hour light.
Lately, only lately, it is late. Tucking
our families into the safeties of the past.
My children, will they exist by the time
it’s irreversible? Will they live
astonished at the thought of ice
not pulled from the mouth of a machine?
Which parent will be the one to break
the myth; the Arctic wasn’t Sisyphus’s
snowy hill. Noah’s wife, I am wringing
my hands not knowing how to know
and move forward. Was it you
who gathered flowers once the earth
had dried? How did you explain the light
to all the animals?


Copyright © 2019 by Maya C. Popa. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I have been trying to work on poems about the environment that draw from and create tension with inherited narratives. I grew fascinated by Noah’s wife, a woman unnamed in the Bible, and her role during the flood. I chose to write to her as a way to think about my own role and potential inaction in the current crisis.”
Maya C. Popa


Maya C. Popa

Maya C. Popa is the author of American Faith, forthcoming from Sarabande Books in November 2019. She is the Poetry Reviews Editor at Publishers Weekly, and an English teacher and Director of the Creative Writing Program at the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York City, where she lives.

Date Published: 2019-09-30

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