Two Poems by Elaine Terranova
Betrothal at the Well
At a well, a maiden (na'arah)
is drawing water. A stranger arrives.
He is footsore, weary. The maiden,
hospitable, invites him home.
The stranger has run away, he has
been driven away, he has come to seek
his fortune. He has come for her.
This she knows and doesn't know.
She only hopes. It is why she is
so often at the well. The water
is her future. Her brother welcomes him,
"Come in, O blessed of the Lord,"
examines the stranger's gifts, nose ring
and bracelets, that already attach
the maiden to him. Not surprisingly,
the stranger asks for the maiden's hand.
Maybe not for himself, maybe he
is a servant, his master has sent him.
If so she has wasted that first look
with her heart. And he, his imagining,
his anticipation. Could it be otherwise?
Behold: a manservant, in spite of his thirst.
A cipher, only meant to hold the place.
The covenant depends on it.
Death Came at Me
on a motorcycle
into the intersection at 50 miles per
with no helmet
Ahead, I saw him, and behind
in the rearview, where he
completed the turn,
from his simple machine,
sheen of red on asphalt.
And wasn't that death, too,
halting but deliberate,
weak and in rags,
approaching our fancy,
as my friend tapped out her troubles:
-which was her life-
with a teaspoon on the table.
I wouldn't look up, wouldn't give
the dollar's worth
of attention he demanded,
something to eat. But I found him
again, later, another day, taste
of morning, steel in my mouth,
at the sameceremonial pace.