Summer 2017 - Poetry

Mariam Williams

 

Bathsheba Speaks, A Butcher Instructs

 

That night indeed I was a lamb slaughtered by the king.
Shepherd’s hook round my neck, he pulled me
from Uriah’s home. One hand under my jaw,
the other at my tail, he took me

 

Beautiful lamb, soft black fleece.
Never grab it by its wool;
you’ll bruise the carcass.

to his palace under starless skies.

 

Beautiful lamb, soft black fleece.

He stared and my wool trembled.
He rose erect and my horns blushed pink.
He…

 

Head down—see the horns?
It senses danger.
Don’t chase to catch. Dance
circles around it.
Walk to the shoulder.
Block. Hook. Stroke. Calm.

and sweat-fear cooled my heat.

 

Hoist the lamb
or lay it on its side?

 

I felt chest, navel, and coils against my fleece.
And I was a lamb with eyes glazed, my

 

Head draped over table’s edge
Stick the jugular.
Quick, clean kill.
Catch the blood yield
from a beating heart.

I prayed he would die.

 

Cut around the anus. Loosen
it from the pelvis.

I prayed he would die.

 

Split the breastbone.

I pray

 

Wash the carcass.

Mikveh waters will

 

Remove all traces.


But new moons hide my blood,
and flies carry my husband’s speared carcass
to our door.

Sackcloth stretched over belly, I return
to the king’s palace. A wife again
splay like lamb again
bear his tender heir to take his memory.

And the Lord sees the secret darkness,
suspends a sword over the king’s house.

            Long, dirty kills.
            Catch the blood yields
            from beating hearts.

It stands so beautiful, that death.

 


 

Mariam Williams holds an MFA from Rutgers-Camden and is a VONA alumna. Her poetry has been published in The Common, The Feminist Wire, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Bozalta. She is working on a memoir that explores black women's sexuality in the context of the Southern Black Church.

  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.