Uriah: My men as one have fallen back!

    October-November 2009            
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Uriah the Hittite

By James Vasquez

(2 Samuel ll)

The battle rages round me now,
My men close by hold high their shields.
The foe atop strong walls looks down
And hardly his disdain conceals.

The arrows all about us strike,
The spears and stones will trace their arc.
We charge and then fall back in hopes
Our archers, too, will find their mark.

And taking cover to refill
Spent quivers with their missiles fierce,
Or take again a sharpened spear
That might some hardened armor pierce,

I have these moments to reflect,
Now freed from sound of foreign drawls,
How by the king I was recalled
From battle field to palace halls.

I will not question his command,
My duty is to serve the king.
My soldier's oath: to serve him well,
And to his name some honor bring.

Yes, I my life would offer up
For David and his royal name.
He too has known the battle cry,
And thus has gathered lasting fame.

A kindness he bestowed on me
When there I met him face to face.
It showed, I thought, his care for men,
'Neath his command a bit of grace.

"You've come afar and weariness
You've known each day from war and strife.
Spend time at home and take your ease,
Enjoy your lovely, lonely wife."

But 'spite his words, my only thought
When from his presence I had gone:
How could I rest my head between
Soft pillows while my men fight on?

I slept that night on hard, cold ground
Midst servants of my lord, the king.
Outside the palace doors I lay,
Till hearing birds their greetings sing.

And yet again the king sent word
That I present myself to him.
We talked, we ate, we drank – be sure
My cup was filled right to the brim.

But in my sotted state I still
Preferred the ground to perfumed bed.
I'd not betray my silent vow
For pleasures of the flesh instead.

Once more I faced my lord the king,
But now to bear a letter bound
To Joab, my commander. Sure,
Some plan of conquest therein found!

I hastened to the battle field,
Such honor as was mine must not
Its path delay to warriors who
Much glory by their blood have bought.


The missive read, I now am sent
To where the battle wages strong.
Am I thus favored that to me
Peculiar honor should belong?

We meet the foe against the wall
And half surrounded are we then.
Above, the archers take their aim
And rain their missiles on my men.

What's that?! I stand alone just now!
My men as one have fallen back!
As if some call I failed to hear
Had forced them to desert th' attack.

Alone, besieged on every side,
My arm grows weary with the sword.
For David now I press the fight,
His honored name my sole reward…


from the October-November 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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