Poet Carol Barrett’s poem is spoken in the voice of biblical Queen Esther, from the Tanakh or Old Testament Book of Esther. But instead of focusing primarily on this complex figure in Hebrew and biblical lore, Carol’s “Esther Talks to Her Unborn Child” instead brims with hope and prophecy for the daughter slumbering in the warmth of Esther’s womb.
Esther Talks to Her Unborn Child No longer do bells ring at my feet. New chimes fill my belly: tiny fingers that press their window of truth. What do you dream in the long veins of your ancestry, mother a Jewess, father a king? Which memory will the blood tell, which hand reach first my rounded bridge? Daughter, I touch you as I smooth my own flesh. Hunger subsides: you are my honey and apples, the nectar of my mother’s song. I watch doves preening their soft breasts. Oh sweet longing, these pillowed hours. Already lullabies drift from my lips like warm sand, covering sleep. I will tell you simple things: how my mother made yogurt, covered the bowl with a cloth. I could smell her hair in the bath. I will say how we followed the river, how chicory startled the air, marjoram and thyme. How warm the stones underfoot, how close the palace of stars. Desert princess, child of gold, you will sing your own story. The warring of Jew and Persian will stop on your tongue, the doves reply. I will close my eyes, mother of harmony, hold you again against my hips, watch your small feet tap at my skin, dancing for both of us.
Carol Barrett directs the Creative Writing Certificate Program at Union Institute & University. She has published two books of poetry and one of creative nonfiction. A former NEA fellow in poetry, Carol has lived in nine states and in England.