Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Month of Poetry #6: Messenger

Continuing my sort-of series on Maligned or Barely-Mentioned Women of the Bible, this one is about the wife of King Jeroboam (the story's in 1 Kings). This is a typically horrific Old Testament story of a woman forced, without any regard for her feelings or agency, to be the harbinger of her own doom. Although she is pivotal to the action, also typically, she is not named.


Go to the prophet, my husband the king said;
Go and ask him what ails the child, and how to heal him.
There will be an answer, somewhere; but
he doesn't favour my rule, so go in disguise
Hide yourself from his clouded eyes, and ask him
Say, What makes the son of the king sick? Will he be healed? Will he die?

the son of the king, he said, will he die?
my husband the king said this of Abijah
the child of my body, lying sweat-drenched on the rushes

and I it was who had to leave him, silent, shallow-chested,
put on my man's robes and go to Shiloh
to the house of the strange old man, bearing honey and cakes

knowing all the while that the cloak would not hide me from his milky gaze
not when God whispers my name into his ear

I did not expect mercy; there has never been a reason or cause
my husband, the king, shows none
none will be shown to him or to his

but it is a bitter cup you hold to my lips, prophet of the Lord
a very bitter cup, God of Israel
to carry death in my dusty feet
the unbearable knowledge that my homecoming brings the end of my son
my Abijah
alone among the line of Jeroboam to be buried in honour

the dogs of the street and the birds of the air will eat the rest of us -

- Kathy, 6/1/14

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