She doesn’t know King David watches,
doesn’t know his lust — blind
to her virtue, her marriage.
I serve this most beautiful of women,
make the water warm, the soap fragrant.
I pour sweet oil between her breasts,
watch it drip on thighs and belly.
She is wed to Uriah, away at war,
but she’s lonely for men’s praise,
looks often in the basin
to measure her own beauty.
I fear the king’s desire. Their eyes meet,
and I know his will is hers as well.
God will smite them in their coupling.
What will become of me who keeps
their secrets? Are my loyalties to king
or God or to my mistress whom I love
as David loves her, as Uriah loves her.
My secrets must remain more secret still.
– Sarah Russell
First published in Ekphrastic Review
Based on Bathsheba by Jean Leon Gerome, 1899
For dVerse and for Poets United
“. . . she curved to her task with deft, balletic grace.”
I wish I knew the full name of this poet. I found this poem several years ago in one of the monthly Goodreads contests, with the name “Jordan” as the author. Every time I read it, I fall in love with the images all over again. If anyone knows more about this person, please let me know. Google has been no help at all.
I am no good at photography.
I lack the necessary subtlety–I am too literal.
I shove the lens right into the center of my subject,
Like a punch to the gut,
Causing the context to crumple around it.
But I sat once at close of day, looking up at a bridge where
Women, silhouetted against the setting sun, made their graceful ways home carrying
Great buckets and baignoires on their heads.
You will have to imagine, I’m afraid, the way their dark bodies were made darker in relief
And the herd-like elegance–not of mindless association,
But natural interconnectedness–of their movement.
A familiar noise made the baby look up from the mat where we were playing.
I followed his gaze to find my sister framed in the doorway, the sheer curtain fluttering between us.
She was folded over a calabash bowl of rice
Making the starch-laden rinse water cascade across her caramel-colored arm,
Which she curved to her task with deft, balletic grace.
There are some–employed by National Geographic, no doubt–
Who could have captured the beauty of this moment–
The way the early Fall light made everything jewel-bright–
With a single “click” of a camera shutter.
But I am no good at photography.