The Daughters
Claire Barwise


When the men came to the door, Lot spoke. He offered his daughters like loaves of bread, yeasty and warm. Let me bring them out to you.
Bilhah loved them all. She felt soft wings beating at her ribs.
Their father said, Do to them as is good in your eyes.
The men shifted, hungry. They did not want bread, but meat. Strange meat of men. Angel loins. At last the men turned from the door.
Zillah hated all of them. She felt beaks tearing at her throat.


Lot loved his wife. Leaving Sodom, Zillah whispered to her mother. Do you smell the fire? The dust? Soon our home will be lost forever.
Her mother's eyes itched.
Do you remember it? Zillah asked. The sub-rubbed wall? The cool sweetness of the well?
Her mother's eyes ached.
I remember, Zillah said. My eyes have swallowed all, and when I close them, I see everything.
Her mother turned to look.
Lot fell to his knees; he ground sand into his eyes. His cry was a bird, torn from its wings. Zillah smiled, tasting salt.


The cave was damp and deep. It smelled like water forgotten in a well. Bilhah felt its echoes ache. Its shadows were her shadows, and called for light.
My daughters, Lot said. Forgive me. Zillah turned away, and poured a mug of wine.
Drink, she said.
My daughter, he said, and drank.
Zillah hated men, and Bilhah loved them all. But there would be no other men. Bilhah looked down, and poured more wine. She wrapped her hand around her father's hand.
Drink, she said. He drank.


When night came, Zillah crouched over Lot like a bird of prey. She picked and pulled at him. She scavenged at his bones. Finally, there was nothing left for her to hate.
When her sister slept, Bilhah kissed her father's salty lids. She grasped his shoulder-wings. She pulled him into her and thought of flight.