Yakov Azriel

 

KING DAVIDíS WIVES

 ďYou will appoint a king upon yourselves, whom the Lord your God will choose; from among your brethren you will appoint a king ... but he should not have too many wives.Ē  (Deuteronomy 17:15 and 17)

  

1. Michal, aged 18; for David, a minstrel at the court of King Saul, her father

Will David ever love me?  Here at court,

He plays his harp and lyre, plucking their strings

In ecstasy and passion as he sings

Of prophets, priests and holy men who taught

That we must build our God a sacred fort,

A lofty bastion built of angel-wings

Protecting all Godís people and their kings,

A shrine of pious deeds and pious thought.

 

Why canít he sing of me?  Godís prophets preach

A husbandís tender love reflects Godís care

For His beloved, Israel, and her life;

Why canít the austere psalms of David teach

It is no shame, no sin, no vice to hear

A shepherd takes a princess as his wife.

 

 

2. Michal, aged 38; for David, her husband

Does David love me?  At my fatherís court,

We all loved him: my father used to bring

Goliathís sword for him to wield; each spring

My brother shielded him in wars they fought;

My sisters listened to the tales he taught

And clapped their hands when he agreed to sing;

And I ó I gave myself, and everything

A woman gives, except the son I sought.

 

Without his love, my life is but a beach

Without its waves, without its sand, as bare

As boulders scraped and carved by an oceanís knife;

Without his love, my life's a tasteless peach,

A grape without its juice, a shapeless pear;

Without his love, what meaning has my life?

 

 

3. Michal, aged 58; for David, the king of Israel

Did David ever love me?  Here at court,

I watch each infant prince and princess cling

And suck their motherís breasts as mothers sing

About the wars our royal husband fought.

The older children, boys and girls, are taught

Our peopleís laws and customs by the king,

Who kisses each, then gives each one a ring

And coats of many colors that he brought.

 

I cling to my window-sill, out of reach,

And hide amidst the shadows from the glare

Of Davidís childrenís light, their sun, their life;

Reciting psalms, I turn to God, beseech

His help and spend my days in silent prayer;

How bleak the nights of Davidís childless wife.

 

 

4. Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; for David, her bridegroom

Am I asleep?  My heartís awake; I hear

Him knocking on my door, ďIíve come, my love,

Unlatch the lock and open the door, my dove

I hear his voice; or do I dream?  I dare

Not open, I have undressed, and lie here bare;

Iíve washed my hands and feet, and wear no glove,

No shoe; yet look ó I see his hand above

The lock, and his shadow hiding in the air.

 

Leaping from hills of myrrh and frankincense,

My groom has come to drink his wine of choice

And rest in beds of spices, among the throngs

Of herbs and lilies of the valley, whose scents

Awaken me tonight.  I hear his voice

Chanting my name, as he sings a song of songs.

 

 

5. Abigail, the widow of Nabal the Carmelite; for David, her second husband

The Lord is my true Shepherd, I shall not want.

When I was very young and very pretty

And very poor, they took me from the city

And made me marry a herdsman, old and gaunt,

A drunken lecher who always used to flaunt

How rich he was.  Heíd kick the ewes and hit me;

Heíd slap my face and never show us pity;

He only knew to beat, insult and taunt.

 

But then he died; and in his stead, God sent

Me David.  Now I am a treasured sheep,

And only in green pastures do I graze.

Godís rod and Davidís staff make me content.

At night, I fear no evil when I sleep,

And dwell in the house of God the length of days.

 

 

6. Maíacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; for David, general, captor, king

He found me in the camps, the only one

Among the captive girls who didnít cry.

All the women begged for bread.  Not I.

I begged my god, the good Tammuz, the sun,

 

To send me death.  Why should I breathe, when none

Of my family lived?  I only wished to die;

Expecting rape, I prayed to sanctify

My life by death before they had their fun.

 

But he, the red-headed soldier, heard my prayers.

There was no rape.  He gently helped me stand

And walk.  For thirty days he let me mourn

My parents, sisters, brothers; he wiped my tears,

And then as king, he issued his command

For suns to shine on me again, re-born.

 

 

7. Eglah; for David, her husband whom she loves

Okay, I must admit Iím somewhat slow,

I donít know how to read and write, I mean,

Itís really hard ó even if youíre a queen ó  

To get the hang of it, the letters flow

Like drops of rain all over the page, they go

Both up and down, across, and in between;

Then funny empty spaces intervene,

Like roots that drink the rain, to make plants grow.

 

So like I said, Iím really not that smart,

And Davidís other wives think Iím a calf.

But I donít care that much.  Let others boast

They read the Torah scrolls; I know the art

Of telling jokes and making David laugh.

So maybe I do Godís work more than most.

 

 

8. Haggit; for David, her savior, teacher, husband

Our family latrine saved my life, when a band

Of Philistines destroyed our farm; the trench

Was full of urine, dung and filth, whose stench

Allowed me to hide inside its slime and sand.

And there I heard their officer command

His men to stab my fatherís heart; to wrench

My brotherís arms until he died; to quench

Their thirst with blood from Motherís severed hand.

 

And there I heard the silence of God.  Until

My savior, David, came and pulled me out.

He taught me not to blame our God, whose grace

Will yet emerge and shine some day, whose still

Small voice will yet resound, despite the shout

Of evil men whose hands now hide Godís face.

 

 

9. Bath-sheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite; when King David sent messengers to

summon her to his palace

The king commands; how can I disobey?

A lion roars, and no one can control

A hungry lionís passions, or its soul.

The lion crouches, waiting for its prey.

Ever since my husband went away,

Iíve dreamt a greedy lion stalked and stole

A pauperís lamb; and no one could console

The man whose lamb the lion schemed to slay.

 

Why canít Uriah fly to me? How tame

My husband is, a gentle bird whose wings

Embrace my head and arms before we sleep.

He loves to sing to me and chant my name,

Then feather me with earrings, bracelets, rings.

Yes, I recall Uriahís smile, and weep.

 

 

10. Bath-sheba, the widow of Uriah the Hittite; for King David, her second husband

and the father of her son, Solomon

The king devotes an hour every day

To teach our son to read the Torah scroll,

Recite his psalms, and gain the self-control

A future king must have; and then, they pray.

He smiles when watching Solomon at play,

At climbing trees or riding his new foal.

I know the king would sacrifice his soul

To save our son, this child he wonít betray.

 

But what am I to him?  A badge of shame,

A mark of Cain, a leperís bell that rings

As soon as I awake until I sleep.

He turns his head and never says my name

Although to all his other wives he sings.

Yes, I recall Uriahís smile, and weep.

 

 

11. Avital; for her lord the king

Before the break of dawn each day, my lord,

The king, arises from his bed to pray

And praise the King of kings, the Lord.  Each day

He prays anew.  Sometimes he says no word

But hums a tune, for speech can be a sword

That stabs the prophetís eyes, which strive to stay

And seize the Light before it slips away.

Yet music, too, can sometimes cause discord

 

And block the prophetís ear, which yearns to hear

The Chariotís Wheels turn.  Those days, the king

Negates his eyes, his ears, his mouth, in fear

And awe of God.  In total silence, as near

To God as he dare come, he doesnít sing

Or speak, but with his feet, he dances prayer.

 

 

12. Avishag, the Shunammite;  for His Royal Majesty, King David

During the rainy, dark and chilly nights

Of winter, His Royal Majesty, the king,

Warms his hands in mine, listens to me sing,

And nods his head before he slowly bites

The meat I feed him with a spoon.  He writes

Another psalm, then orders me to bring

His motherís candlesticks and wedding ring

For me to see, and him to hold.  He fights

 

His tears when he begins to talk, quietly,

About his mother.  ďFriday nights sheíd kiss

My brow before she prayed; she loved me best,

And after lighting candles, sang with me.

Of everyone Iíve loved, itís her I miss

Let the old king cry.  Let an old man rest.