Lament of the Pharaoh’s Daughter in Summer

Part of a series I’m working on about some biblical stories.

The Pharaoh’s Daughter was the wife of Solomon. Solomon, king of Jerusalem, who desired wisdom above all else, had a harem of a thousand wives and concubines, a feat rivalled maybe only by Genghis Khan? I dunno, but it seems excessive. Apparently it was his love of women that ended up being Solomon’s downfall.

The Pharaoh’s Daughter is the only wife named in the story, although that’s probably not the name on her driver’s license.

Here she is, in a lament that owes a debt to William Carlos Williams’ The Widow’s Lament in Springtime, and to the story in Kings, and to my own misgivings about forgoing relationships in search of wisdom


Lament of the Pharaoh’s Daughter in Summer

Even when you are around
you’re not here. I may have
your eyes, at times, never
your ear. I have looked down 
the bottom of wells for you.
Asked sunsets what to do.

The sun in the afternoon
is muggy and unbearable.
Nor ice, nor dripping reeds
hung from windows will
cool, but the heat keeps me
from being able to miss you.

Only in evenings do I know
the same sorrow as widows
and a dying like the sun’s dying
going down again and again.
You’ve built magnificent houses
but do not know how to live in them.

When will your searching end?
When will this yearning ripen
into wisdom, that you may
be done with learning and
return to a family and to me?
O when, my love, O when?

Knowledge will not warm
a bed. It does not take children
to the park, or kiss a forehead.
Knowing will not sooth the morning
I wake and find you’ve left for good,
having understood some revealed truth.

Wilderness is all that knowledge
knows, and all that satisfies.
It ventures into woods unceasingly.
It strikes out to map and civilize
and breeds, in cities it leaves
behind, contemptuous familiarity.

Next to knowledge I am nothing
but a name, something to check
back on, to be reassured nothing
out of the ordinary has changed.
Only the same want for affection,
only desires, unfulfilled, remain.

Fame

 

You think one day “What happened to

that band we listened to in high school?”

Instantly a song breaches the surface,

not music but memory, out-of-focus.

God that was years ago. When it played

at the fall dance, some squealing,

some groaning, some with a wry look.

Each of us knew it in our own way.

 

It turns out nothing happened to them.

It happened that weekend in LA

you drove to see them, there before

the thousands, strutting between the lights.

They lived it, and you saw, and until

now had forgotten, and that was all.


R Charboneau

Two Crows on a Telephone Pole

 

Two crows on a telephone pole

crow about their neighbors, but I

have learned to live alone, I know

none of my neighbors, I stay by

my computer, or by my phone.

I step outside to say hello.

They drop their gazes and start home.

I can only guess what they know.

Continue reading “Two Crows on a Telephone Pole”

Sonnet for David Attenborough

 

Science tells us the process exists

in the thing itself. A chimpanzee

is the sum of its processes, both

kinds within and without, one

metaphor of iteration at all scales.

Physiognomies, behaviors, moods

multiplied out of primordial soups,

spermatogeneses, ancestors as large

as sperm, once the largest things 

living on the face of the earth.

All this in the glassy look

of a chimpanzee clumsily

shucking nut-paste with a spatula

fashioned from a broken stalk.


R. Charboneau