The novelist and poet Marge Piercy lives in Wellfleet, Maine, which is located in the seaside area of Cape Cod. In the poem "Wellfleet Sabbath," Piercy describes the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath in her home by the sea.
The Jewish Sabbath begins Friday evening at sundown and continues until nightfall on Saturday evening. Thus, Pierce's poem begins as the "hawk eye of the sun slowly shuts"--that is, at sundown.
Stanzas 1-3 describe the appearance of the bay, the ocean, and the moon as night, and the Sabbath, take hold. The most important aspect of the Jewish Sabbath is peaceful rest, which Piercy alludes to with an anthropomorphism:
stretches its muscles in the deep,
purrs and rolls over.
In Stanza 4, Piercy mentions three important ritual symbols of the Sabbath:
a) candles, which are lit just before sundown;
b) roast chicken, which is the main course of a traditional Sabbath eve dinner; and
c) wine, which is used to recite a blessing thanking God for the Sabbath.
The poem ends with a description of how
comes on the short strong wings of the seaside
sparrow raising her song and bringing
down the fresh clean night.
"Shekina" is a Hebrew word roughly translated as the "presence of God"; in Jewish mysticism, it is often described in gentle,feminine terms. Here, Piercy imagines it fluttering in on "the short strong wings of the seaside sparrow." Like many poets before her, Piercy finds God in nature.