...is included in my book, Wild Once and Captured, available here, on the website of Teaching for Change.
You know when we met
I was a girl who loved
Baal for his rain and sweet water
and might love you for your youth and sweet breath.
I was the lure brought you unknowing
to Siddon where the sun skied mornings
above cedar hills, making jewels
on the crest of harbor swells.
Jezebel, chief’s daughter,
dreaming of many things,
but most often of the boy
to make my thighs quiver,
and none of the queen who later
would make my eyes run wet and salty.
You, pale desert boy, came,
hooked by my dreams,
with hair like raven’s wings
and prophet’s dreams of glory
and torturer’s dreams of pain
and a core of discontent
that you were born a shepherd.
I would have left my father’s hearth
to be your shepherdess, but for
your claim to something greater.
Our joyful dance pleased Baal, I know,
while you pretended grim shame before your god
who punished you like an angry father,
whom you yet embraced.
Were we to approach the other now,
would you wet your lips for this sweet Phoenician,
or would I be target for your rage
and angry accusations?
Do your loins remember
my dewy hills at dawn,
the little rivers of our wet fertility
dampening chest and thigh and mysteries?
Or would you pretend to a purity
that never pricked a gentile?
I am reconciled that I did not defy my father,
fight Ethbaal to love my Israelite shepherd boy.
But I tried and tried
to come to you and cried,
Eli, your Jessie has come,
when I arrived, but there was no answer.
Had you waited for me? And misunderstood
my absence? Cursed me for rejecting you,
as you curse me now for turning
from the worship of your god
who demands more than other gods?
Now, Ethbaal is king in Tyre
and I am queen in Samaria
and spread my legs for Ahab,
the Israelite king, whom you daily damn.
I am thus, Queen Jezebel,
the living bond between Israel and Phoenicia,
which you condemn,
somehow forgetting the beauty
of Eli and Jessie,
as your one god does dismiss
the beauties of the many.
Your own voice,
which once whispered
sweetness in the courtyard
of the temple of Baal and laughed
in the sight of the sky goddess, Lady Nut,
your voice thunders and threatens,
slanders innocence, proclaims
dominion for one god above all gods,
dismissing dancing and worship before many.
My Eli, sweet tormented shepherd,
it is not our gods who invent unkindness,
but ourselves. This your lord, God, must know,
though you shrill otherwise,
and speak of a god blind to
the pools of kindness and courage
in foreign worshippers. How like the way
you deny the pool of love in which
we bathed and sung praise.
Do you remember the hart at sunrise
leaping our prostrate bodies?
I crept the shadows before that dawn
and startled when you arrived beside me.
And when you opened your robe,
I stepped inside your arms and
warm wrap of cotton while we sank
to earth, your lips sweet on mine,
your tongue a spring of wild water
plunging to my thirsty roots.
We moved slowly to the late calls of night birds,
quickening even as the owls hooted
slow caution, finishing to the sound
of hooves pounding, the hart
robust and wild above us and gone.
In the peace we found, I swear I heard
the great heart beating and felt the
throbbing pulse below,
just as it might have been
on the glorious first day.
I said the gods are smiling and you looked
at me and I said you are
smiling, too, and you said, this time, yes.
Do you have memory of this, or none?
Just as your god of many promises
remembers only those he wishes to keep?
Do you remember only that
which serves you now?
Are you now a perfect
acolyte of your god?
In your zeal you are become a destroyer,
first of earthly desire, and more besides.
Your wish to sip the wines of a hundred kingdoms
forgotten, your wish to sample the women
of every prince of every port
of the wide Phoenician sea,
lost. Gone as though left undreamt.
Or shriven within your heart,
consumed in the desert heat
of a different passion, your
service to your one god, who
requires devotion not in me to give.
You denounce Ahab, whom you call
the willing tool
of the prostitute of Tyre.
But Ahab leads as kings do.
I stand not in his way. Ahab
ministers to the myriads
who worship whomever they will.
Ministers to the myriads who toil,
wear down like rocks in the stream,
who suffer hardship of drought,
and locust plagues,
and children born still
and children died young
and lovers claimed too soon. It is Ahab
who keeps the granaries full against famine,
Ahab who cares for the widow,
soothes the orphan,
Ahab who decrees no favorite
among the gods, who does not choose
among the gods
of Israelites, Ammonites, Edomites and Moabites.
And his people praise Ahab’s forbearance,
thank Ahab for his kindness,
while you call Ahab sinner.
In the King’s court, I have stood for
sandalmakers from Ammom,
stood for potters from Moab, saying to the King
these, also, are your people,
there should be no special privilege
for the Jews.
And the King has listened, then ruled as he would.
Ahab is no tool of Jezebel.
But Elijah Hanavi tells the story,
Jezebel the prostitute from Phoenicia
twists Ahab’s judgment and sins against
the one god.
And who listens?
The Hebrew zealots listen, and the hopeless,
aching for legends of more and better, listen,
and those who already bear hatred,
they listen. These have never seen the sea,
or the natural beauty of Phoenicia’s hills,
or the works of other men in Tyre. You
have made cause with these men
whose hard lives will change only as Ahab succeeds,
but the gifts of milk and honey they are promised
are the empty bribes of an intolerant god.
Who will protect Israel from Assyria?
The lord, your god, has no chariots.
Ahab’s soldiers, Ammomites, Edomites,
Israelites, Moabites, these are Israel’s shield.
The soldiers of a kingdom of many customs and many faiths,
these will protect Israel,
as will Ahab, the king, whom you damn.
You have riled the Hebrews.
Enough riot through Samaria and all of Israel
to kill all the priests of Baal. Now you flee to the Judean hills,
and claim that Jezebel sends vengeance racing after.
But it is I who remain behind.
I who calm Ahab,
Ahab who wishes to decree your death.
Seek no vengeance, I say to Ahab.
Only bring Elijah to explain this deed
in your court. But, yes, Eli, I also urged
Ahab on, saying hunt Hanavi,
he must answer to the families
of the lovers of other gods.
Yet I am split in pieces.
I am Ahab’s queen.
I am the princess who was Eli’s love.
I am the tears that Jessie cried
to the sun that rose in Eli’s face
in his wandering east.
I am those tears springing fresh today
from Jezebel’s eyes.
I hear, Eli, I am to die in the street,
torn to pieces by hungry dogs.
Is this your curse? Does Elijah triumph here?
Will the story of Jezebel and Ahab be told
according to Elijah?
And what will be the fruit that grows
from such stories?
Shepherd boy, know this,
Jessie will not flee the lies and sordid tales.
I am a chief’s daughter, Queen of Israel.
What you decree, may come, but Jezebel does not flee.
I remember you once had such a will
when we loved a lifetime ago.