Michal and Paltiel


When Saul my Dad was still the king and David on the lam,
An outlaw and a mercenary, Saul found me a new man
There’s the dynasty to think of if your father wears the crown
So I was wed to Palti with a chuppah at sundown,
An espousal true and kosher, to husband number two
And David out in Ziklag with his men, the happy few.
They brought me into Palti’s tent and wham bam thank you ma’am
So later I was rather touched to find he gave a damn
He meant to show affection but just didn’t have the knack,And walked behind me weeping when David claimed me back,
Now why did Palti shed the tears while David was dry-eyed?
I was a wife to both of them, the trophy princess bride,
The fact I had no children was a setback for King Saul
It looked as if our dynasty was going to the wall;
This suited David who despatched without much fuss or noise
The remnant of our family, my sister Merab’s boys.
He gave them to the Gibeonites who hanged them, every one
And the royal hopes of Benjamin were finally undone
While my nephew, Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, the prince
Lost half his land to Ziba and we haven’t seen it since.
It’s fishy how King David got Saul’s grandsons out the way
He took me back from Palti, like some slave who’d gone astray,
He’d taken younger wives and, though he spent his nights with them,
I’d say he only loved himself, and possibly Hashem…
So the tribe of Judah lives to tell the tale and write the scroll
And cast themselves forever in a messianic role
With Saul, my Dad, bipolar, or so the bible shows
And Paltiel, the husband, whose name nobody knows.

A.N.B. [1990]


Yeshiva boy from Hackney,
Seventh child and fatherless,
Took odd jobs to make ends meet,
Sold high boots to ballet dancers,
Without conviction.

Then came World War II,
Volunteered for the navy,
Got the army, London Scottish,
Thus obliged to wear a kilt,
Against prediction.

Sergeant-major, Desert Rat,
Drove a tank and shot point blank,
Rescued men from burning huts,
Awarded military medal,
Better than fiction.

Italy in forty-four
And forty-five, active service,
Meeting Pope Pius XII
Picking up fluent Italian
And a shrapnel affliction.

Demobbed at last, a waiting wife,
A mother dead, he buries gongs
Of distinguished service by her grave,
To such mementos of glory,
He lacks addiction.

Post-war, he shuns jingoism,
He who waved his Union flag
At primary school on Empire Day
And anglicized his first name
For acceptability.

Revered in North London,
Elder of the synagogue,
Personal tragedy ravaging life,
Keeping a stiff upper lip,
That English ability.

Full of days, one man Sanhedrin,
Still at hand for those in need,
Lifeline for the devastated,
Fourscore years are in his sights,
Shows equanimity.

Small in stature, slight of build,
Ashen faced on Yom Kippur,
Tallit at the Neilah service
Covering his hairless head
In touch with divinity.

B’Ezrat Hashem [1999]

Rosh Hashanah
Like a beggar at the Western Wall
I approach the Days of Awe
Greedy hands held out for more
May the Creator hear me call.
Like an infant at the breast
With ferocious appetite
I come to Rosh Hashanah night
Prepared to utter my request.
Everything lovely I require
Pleasure joy fulfillment ease
In abundance to appease
The long mourning of which I tire
Surely I am not to blame
In presenting my petition
If it is a sin of commission
May He hear me just the same

David and Michal

David the king, my husband, leaped and whirled before the Lord
To Jerusalem he brought the ark and all the people danced
He was got up in a priestly robe; his doting subjects roared
With approval as, half-naked, he gyrated, twirled and pranced.
I saw him through the window; I saw the servant girls,
I saw the king had made himself the object of their gaze
I scorned the gross exposure, the flashing as he whirls,
While the wenches cry ‘God save him, may he live for length of days!’

David the King, my husband, I’m afraid he got me wrong
Yes it’s true I was the daughter of the king who came before
David called me ‘Jewish princess,’ said I’d criticized too long
And regarded him in private as a Bethlehemite boor.
‘God chose me above your father I advise you to recall,’
In that cutting voice of his I know the servants never hear,
‘I sang and played my harp; I was a comforter to Saul,
And I realize you despise me but the slave girls hold me dear.’

The stupid man forgot there was a day I’d saved his life,
He climbed out through my window with Saul’s soldiers in pursuit
I deceived King Saul, my father – I was David’s loyal wife,
I said ‘I think my love is not a matter for dispute.’
‘You mean to say I owe you,’ and his cold stare broke my heart
So I backtracked very quickly and, placatingly I said
‘No, I just want to remind you how I loved you at the start’
And he answered ‘That’s all done: I’ll come no longer to your bed.’

He took more wives, low-born they were, with husbands to despatch
His taste was not for maidens; I, of course, a virgin bride,
Was untouched by man (and royal), as you might say, quite a catch,
I loved him, but he thought me full of arrogance and pride.
Now he is threescore years and ten, and I am waxing old
I hear they found a young girl, Abishag, to warm his bed,
A fairly bold solution, when he mentioned feeling cold,
And ill-advised, considering how quickly rumours spread.

His children mostly let him down and Solomon, they say
Will succeed him. Don’t doubt it: that unholy trinity
Bathsheba, Nathan, Zadok, are sure to get their way
And David’s sons, like Banquo’s, will reign on to infinity.
His exit through my window even now comes to my mind
His perilous descent, yet he looked up to catch my eye,
He mouthed ‘I love you’. Yes! To me! Then I was left behind,
But that’s how I’ll remember him until the day I die.

June 2013