This week’s poem in the Catholic Poetry Room is by James Green.
Uriah Prays for the Grace of a Happy Death
“. . . And Uriah said unto David, ‘The ark, and Israel, and Judah,
abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord,
are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house,
to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest,
and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.'”
2 Samuel 11:11 (KJV)
They say the husband is the last to know.
Perhaps for some. I saw it in their eyes
before this latest war with Ammonites.
Too frequent were his morning rooftop strolls
and she, pretending to be unobserved
while loosening her robe so gracefully,
the way it fell in folds about her feet,
the way she lingered at the water’s edge.
One does not rise in rank to general
unless he’s learned to see what lies ahead.
My choices were but three – a soldier’s death
with highest honors at my burial
or else humiliation at the tips
of spears as royal guards defend their liege
against the frenzy of a cuckold’s rage.
The third would be to play the hapless dupe
and eagerly delight in one more night
of rapture with Bathsheba in our bed,
deep flesh to flesh, so that it might be said
the child to come in time is mine despite
the gossip whispered in the alleyways
and shops in villages across the realm.
My choice? A warrior always I have been,
a warrior I will be. Let Joab play
his minion’s role in David’s sordid plot.
I will obey the soldier’s code and sleep
beside my men. In battle I will keep
my place, as worthy leaders do, in front.
And so, this night, my last, I kneel beneath
the stars you made that wheel across the sky
to make my last confession before I die
and I pray for the grace of a happy death.
There is one more petition that I bring:
Bathsheba, please, on her your mercy spill.
I do forgive my wife; I love her still;
but I must leave the judgment of my king
James Green has published five chapbooks of poetry, one of which, Long Journey Home, was winner of the 2019 Charles Dickson Chapbook Contest sponsored by the Georgia Poetry Society, and his most recent, Ode to El Camino de Santiago and Other Poems of Journey, was published this year by Wipf & Stock. His individual poems have appeared in literary magazines in Ireland, the UK, and the U.S. Formerly a university professor and administrator, he is now retired and resides in Muncie, Indiana. To learn more about James and his poetry, visit his website at www.jamesgreenpoetry.net.