I wrote this poem in an attempt to explore the life of Bathsheba. I wondered what it might feel like to experience challenging events in her life. When my friend Kathy Smith read the poem at a gathering last week at my church, Solomon’s Porch, she pointed out that when stories from the Bible are told from the perspective of women, the narrative sounds quite different.


I. Bathing

night air scented
lavender and rose
massage my neck
rub my hands
along my thighs
my husband will not be home
anytime soon
close my eyes
smell him near
see his eyes shine
for me imagine
his hands

II. Summons

first time inside
the palace
unknown I watch
the servants barely
notice me
washed and oiled roughly
dressed in jewels
worth more
than everything I have
I begin to understand
why I am here

David seems smaller
kinder than I thought
my body opens
to his kisses
betrays me again
and again with pleasure
I could be killed for this mutiny
in my mind strange
hands everywhere

III. Return

into my clothes
into the street
find my way
home alone
by the fire
refuse food
refuse bathing
refuse everything I can
the stench
of him remains
punish this body

IV. Pregnancy

burn clothes
take bread
begin to live
as betrayer
another body
shapes itself in me
as if a miracle

V. Husband

I long to tell him everything
even though he
will be wild with war

wait by the fire
all night
two nights
he never comes

does he know

VI. Death

bite my tongue
see if I can feel

watched every moment
I am not quick
or strong enough
to strip off this life

death scooped out
my insides
buried them with him
I am only skin
and hair wrapped
around air
and the child

VII. Queen

loathing is dangerous
I’ll make my first
decree to end the war
in me who
is the enemy
his shame
his longing
mirror mine

oh Uriah
do not watch what I do

everything about the king
begs forgiveness
except his mouth
occupied on the mound
of our son

VIII. Fever

we pray
this small tangle
of blankets
his body
hangs on him
like thin bags of sand
each day we wait
a kingdom
its breath

IX. Burial

why not
take me
why punish
his future
once spread
along my mind now burned
before his time
there is not enough
room in me
for so much sorrow

X. Birth

will this one
be taken

or may his name
save him

XI. Coronation

Who would have thought
this body
would bring one king
into it
bring another
king out

a nation once teetered
at my breasts

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  • Tim Hartman

    Thank you for this. You might appreciate this recent book: Isn’t This Bathsheba?: A Study in Characterization by Sara Koenig.

    • Victoria Peterson-Hilleque

      I will read it. Thanks for the recommendation.

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