"Betrayal" Poetry Contest Winners / March 2013 (Issue 20)


by Theophilus Kwek

“It came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.

David sent and enquired after the woman, and one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”

2 Samuel 11: 2-3


 There were rumours, even in the camp: how she would call
to passing merchants, bathe on the roof. Sell what was mine,
ours, night upon silken night. Once, pitched near Jerusalem,
I broke ranks in the evening, left my dagger by the door. Found her
painting her lips in the mirror, jewellery strewn across the floor.

She blamed me; I blamed the King. Another month, he’d said,
and all will be ours. That was years ago. These days, I dream
neither of her fingers’ kiss nor a promised land. Avoid the house
when I return, its parched silence another siege. We gather
in the inn at the gate, where there is wine and honey, nothing

to forget. Eat and drink, drown in laughter, sleep by the palace
when morning draws near. On odd days the servants join us,
as does Prince Absalom, who is quite the rebel. A whole week
before the army leaves, and Israel waits again for our triumph.
We have learnt not to do the same: not an errand that we run,

but a race. There is little to fight for, less to lose, only an end
that we must feign. Tomorrow, we leave for Rabbah, to do battle
where it is hottest. The King sends me with a request, that I be
placed at the front of the guard. Perhaps there is some greater
use for me, or perhaps none – God only knows. I leave a letter

for my wife, and some silver, should I come to harm; pray
that she finds a man with more to offer than I can give.
Across the city, like an angel, a familiar glow enters a room
I do not know. It is her flowered touch and scented hair,
and beneath: the veined jade of her ankle.


This is the Second Prize Winner of Cha's "Betrayal" Poetry Contest. Read a description of the poem by Theophilus Kwek here. [Read Andrew Barker's commentary on this poem here.] [Return to the "Betrayal" section.]

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