Michal and Bathsheba

If you’re inclined to buy into the legend

You’ll think Bathsheba was an iron age Monroe,

Arousing desire in any man who looked,

Winning the susceptible king at ‘Hello.’

Rembrandt’s depiction is closer to the truth;

His Bathsheba is a bulky Dutch frau,

An exhibitionist, later a lobbyist

Influencing the royal succession somehow.

Me, well I’m Michal, King David’s first wife;

It seems that you and I have met before.

You don’t recall? But you know Bathsheba,

More prominent in biblical, artistic lore.

You heard that she got her kit off on the roof.

Not that it matters, but she was indoors,

David was on the roof, so he had sight

Of activities on the lower floors.

That same night, he sent out messengers

And had her brought directly to his rooms

The King’s wishes must be gratified,

And indeed they were, at least, so one assumes.

In no time at all, Bathsheba was pregnant,

An inconvenient postscript to desire

As her husband would know it wasn’t his,

So David had to fix things with Uriah.

He sent loyal Uriah to the fray

Without backup, thus the soldier lost his life,

Unselfishly removing the impediment

To King David’s liaison with his wife.

Well don’t look at me! Yes, I’d married him,

But was never privileged to have David’s ear.

He tended to prefer Maacah or Abigail,

But had a different favourite every year.

He disliked me for being fastidious

But more than that, because he did my father harm;

My father, as you know, was Saul the king,

Who rightly eyed David’s ambitions with alarm.

You were asking about Bathsheba and me –

You’d be surprised to know how rarely we spoke;

She never came to the Royal Wives’ Book Club;

Her taste for Mills and Boone struck me as a joke.

As time went by, I noticed she was clever.

With Nathan on her side, she pushed the claim

Of her son Solomon, who had older brothers,

Half-brothers. Displacing them was her aim.

Perhaps you want to know if I suffered,

On account of the women who usurped my place,

Pleasing the king with a gentle phrase or look

Or with a smiling and attractive face.

Well, by the time I was past childbearing,

I didn’t care whom David took to bed,

Who bore him sons or daughters, knew his secrets

Or who, like me, wore a queen’s crown on her head.

This is what I minded: at first he loved me

But a few years later, he hated me;

He broke up that brief second marriage of mine

Yet, in his heart, never reinstated me;

He was by nature stubbornly unforgiving

But at the same time, wouldn’t do without me;

He wronged several members of my family.

He showed no curiosity about me.

The thing is, I pitied him and pity stokes love.

Of all the women, the one I most resented

Was Abishag, sent to comfort the old, cold king,

And I felt, at the time, strangely tormented.

That teenager, who cared nothing for him –

Whose idea was it that she should keep him warm?

I seem to perceive Joab all over it,

As a manipulator, he had great form,

He set up the same girl with Adonijah

One of David’s sons, encouraging the fling

As he thought Adonijah was heir presumptive,

Not realizing that Solomon would be king.

That brings me back to Solomon’s mother,

Bathsheba, now pulling strings with the best,

So her son and hopeless grandson reigned

The latter stirring up such a hornet’s nest,

The kingdom was divided, Israel in the North

And in the South, Judah, the Davidic throne;

A few generations later, came the exile

And after that, we’re in the messianic zone.

Bathsheba gets a mention in Matthew’s gospel,

Not a namecheck, Matthew just says ‘her;’

David fathered a son by ‘her of Uriah,’

Which is the version I personally prefer.



November 2016







Marching Past


In the lean 1950s, I watched them marching by;

Touched by frosty sun, the medals still shone

As an adult, I polished and polished, to no avail

The shine on my father’s medals had gone.

A child, I stood with my mother in Whitehall

Waiting and shuffling my feet

Mum bought me a milk chocolate clock

So I could nibble something sweet.

Years later I’d buy hot chestnuts for my children

They’d say ‘There’s Grandpa!’ as he passed

He was seventy and more but never missed the parade,

It was his way of holding fast.

He always marched with Oxford and St George’s

Named for St George-in-the-East

The  club which brought light to East End children,

And offered them a cultural feast.

He also went to Remembrance Day in Hendon,

Much later, when he was ninety or so,

A carer then would push his wheelchair

But still, every year he would go.

I used Duraglit for copper, on the medals

An assignment which I found tough

Because the metal showed signs of thinning

And Dad said they still weren’t bright enough.

Some time after he died, the medals went missing.

My sister and I were beside ourselves

But they turned up in the care home’s safe

Where they’d fallen behind some shelves.

Now I no longer stand on the pavement

But watch the parade on BBC

The ex-servicemen and women

Swing their arms so dauntlessly,

Wars, conflicts, tensions have not ceased.

The bands play tunes from World War One

Lest we forget. But we remember, in the morning,

And ‘at the going down of the sun.’

13  November 2016