Viewed from the voyeur's vantage, she is only ever Other, breasts bared or barely draped in dampness, bathing or emerging from waters, eyes come-hithering, sometimes her whole body issuing its dubious invitation. No doubt David saw her this way, eyes surveying the rooftops for all he called his own, the private and holy ritual she performed the only thin excuse his lust required.
Only Tissot has her clothed, prostrate, grieving the expendable Uriah, the second in a three-stranded cord of griefs: her body first, then husband, then son. Had she known how history would blame her, conflate her name with "Seductress", she'd have grieved longer, lain on the floor until her swelling belly, the violator king's bursting offspring, allowed it no longer. At least Tissot gives her this dignity, letting her grieve without end, without her body made a vessel of desire.
Nathan too, though he clothes her by unclothing the king's lie: Nathan the prophet to whom David's the naked seducer, his sins stinking to heaven, the whole world having not hyssop enough to wash it away. "You," he says, stripping off the dank, swamp-sodden disguise, "You, king, are that man." Only then does the whole filthy garment of privilege, of droit de seigneur, fall in a bare crumple of repentance.
And grace, breaking its unfettered way in, makes a record, writes it down: "Bathsheba, who was Uriah's wife". There, alongside Rahab, Tamar, the used and maligned. Grace names and reclaims. Slowly Bathsheba rises from grief...
2 thoughts on “Waiting 6: Bathsheba”
Matthew, you are a consummate poet. But this poem is especially exquisite. Excellent work!!!! I’m reblogging it so that I can read it over and over.
Reblogged this on My Better Poems and commented:
Matthew Pullar is one of the best poets of his generation. This poem is one of my top favorites of all he has written. Please be sure to thank him for this excellent work. Then go back and read about David’s capture of Bathsheba in the Old Testament.