Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Who Wrote the Song of Songs?


Warm. In the Eighties. Sunny. These are words I don’t often use together. Where we live ‘foggy' and’ cold‘ are partners, and  can describe summer. “It’s been raining all week” is also common. It’s May, the roses are blooming. and the rhododendrons and the lilies. I’ve been working in the garden daily, planting, weeding. The Gardener in me responds to the season, and the earth takes over my week.

The Curious One did manage to sneak in today. Now that I’m not teaching, this inner voice announces herself with a question, and must have the answer immediately. Today I was thirsty, sitting on my writing deck with a hot sunbeam penetrating the treescreen, but the Curious One wouldn’t let me re-fill the glass until she received the possible answers to her question. You see, there is rarely only one answer in cultural history. You get “probably written in the  9th century B.C., “may have been written by a woman who was black”, “must have been written by a highly skilled bard”. Nary a fact to be found, and if one is provided, it is often overturned a few years later.
Finally, the question-compulsion and the possible answers dissolve into a poem. Before I finish the poem I return from 900 B.C. to my deck, and the sun finally reaches me. I stop and hear the birds. I listen to the birds. I walk over to the garden that Bill & I have created, and realize I have a blog post.

Who Wrote the Song of Songs?

Who wrote the Song of Songs?
Excuse me Rabbi
you want me to say
it was Solomon
and I say not Solomon

A woman says a woman wrote it   it was womensong
a dreamscape of love if love could be chosen   and this woman
is black  the woman says  a Shulamite from the village of Shulem
A man says “an extraordinary talent (a him  a his)
created this Hebraic masterpiece of world literature
sometime in the 9th century B.C.”

Have you noticed that narratives never borrow
not “This came to us from Persia”   or  
“that was taught to us by African traders”?

How unwilling we are to admit
the cloth of culture
is woven from threads
handspun in a dozen places

I think of Persian erotic tales
the artful consummations of Indian Gods
and wonder if The Song of Songs was on loan
Is it  or is it not
a wonder
that hero sagas   chronicles 
warnings   exiles  
613 commandments
were canonized together with
a Garden of Delight?

Sunlight and birdsong
finally reach me
I turn away from questions  
from answers
to the truth of this moment:
It is so good to have this song
Especially since the songliles
the roses  the apple blossoms
“have appeared
in our land”
and love    settles down beside me


  1. Maybe a bee first sang Song of Solomon, a lover of juices of roses and apple blossoms, birdsong and sunlight, and of course, those sunlilies...

  2. What a lovely idea! It was buzzed!

  3. Or, perhaps, the song was and is a continuing dream of roses.