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Abishag

(He Knew Her Not)

My pleasing form, not anything profound,
won me the King's bed.  An accident
of birth, of youth, of flowing hair
and eyes deemed quiet because no one
ever looked inside them.

Brought to be warm in the King's bed,
in his old age, a comfort after years
of war  and tumult and more interesting women.
Quiet solace, they thought, in the sweet
young valley of my breasts.

Perhaps he would pick up the harp again
the King, raise his quavering voice in psalms
of long ago.  Not new songs, nothing in praise
of Abishag of the smooth thighs and the quiet
stupid look, this girl they think was born to serve.

Night-sentries outside the tent of the King
shift a bit uneasily, hearing me cry out.
Frustrated impotence is cruel in him.
My women, all of them old, say nothing
when they wash my parts with flowing water
and smooth the salve around the kingly bite-
marks over my heavy young nipples.

I am Abishag, forced to serve and comfort.
The last of the King's women, forgettable as bed-pillows,
thought unaware, kept silent.
I am Abishag.
There is more to me than warming this cold King,
Sire, nation's Father, but that is what people remember.
It's how my name got in the book.

 ~ Delilah Riordan, 2000

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(Site last updated 08 December, 2008)

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