Across the marketplace he pauses, leaning on his staff,
his eyes skimming past heaps of almonds and figs, gleaming grapes,
earthen jars of honey warmed by the afternoon sun,
to rove the crowd in search of a woman’s comely form, his face
a leathery mask. He would disavow his need to assuage his ache.
But I have watched his eyes follow the servant’s long black braid,
her swaying hips. He is proud, his grandfather the "child of promise,"
though fulfillment was slow, nearly past all bearing.
For too long this man has mouthed empty promises. My belly
should have swollen many times by now, but my profile betrays
a maiden’s slim waist. If I turn my head he will spy my veil,
thinking it as blank as new papyrus, never imagining
it could bear the inscription of his lust. My gown's crimson
will lure him to me, the hue of birth-blood, heart’s cry.
How he loves to trumpet his family’s "chosen" status, boasting
of his father’s wrestling a blessing from Yahweh’s angel.
We widows pat dough into plump loaves for the evening meal,
whispering together, keeping alive the story of Yahweh’s favour
to lowly Hagar, mother to a different child of promise.
Soon this man will take a step toward me. I have so little
to lose. Our women’s lore tells me the time is ripe; his staff
will be my pledge. When the veil is finally lifted, he will see his face
reflected in mine as in a pool of still, clear water: shame for shame.
I shall bide my time a little longer, hands demurely folded, waiting.
Patricia L. Hamilton
Patricia L. Hamilton, the author of The Distance to Nightfall (Main Street Rag), is a professor of English in Jackson, TN. She won the Rash Award in Poetry in 2015 and 2017 and has received three Pushcart nominations. She has new work in Soul-Lit, Fare Forward, and The Windhover and work forthcoming in Bindweed and Broad River Review. She enjoys travel, jazz, and cappuccino.
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