Juxtaposing the warlike antagonistic nature of humanity with the protective and peaceful side, poet Stacey Elza offers readers “To Build a Bow”. Relating to the biblical psalm that inspired it, Stacey’s poem also offers notions of karmic justice. As a poem, the imagery of “To Build a Bow” crosses eras from the ancient world to now, but readers are left, however, in the quietude of someone, a hunter-gatherer of sorts, emptying a quiver to fill with plump red berries. “I wrote my poem, ‘To Build a Bow,’ as a reflection on Psalm 37:14-15, which reads: ‘The wicked draw their bows to kill the poor and helpless, to kill those who are honest. But their swords will stab their own hearts, and their bows will break’,” Stacey explained to The Dewdrop. “I rediscovered this psalm when I bought a used copy of The Youth Bible on eBay. It’s the Bible I had in the ’90s, growing up in the Bible belt, and just as I remembered, it pairs Psalm 37 with commentary that–surreally enough–warns readers not to envy Donald Trump.”
To Build a Bow
To build a bow is human.
To form it from an antler or from fiberglass,
To pull back on its string of sinew–
Or of polymer–and fire it,
To watch the arrowhead you knapped
From flint or extricated
From some plastic coffin
Sink into a deer, a bail of hay,
A target that looks like a man,
A man who has become a target:
This will always be human.
But to shape a shield,
To weave one out of reeds
Or piece together one from lindenwood
And leather–or to manufacture one from Kevlar–
This is human, also.
To bind a wound, to splint a bone
That’s broken, or to break a spicebush branch
To empty someone’s quiver of its arrows and
To fill it with the spicebush berries–
Sun-warmed, blood-red berries plucked before
The birds could get them:
This, too, is human
And will always be so.
Stacey Elza earned her B.A. in English from McNeese State University and her M.F.A. in creative writing from West Virginia University. Her novel, Falling Lessons, was published by Aurora Corialis Publishing in March 2023. Her earlier work has appeared in The Lion and the Unicorn, Iron Horse Literary Review, the Unitarian Universalist WorshipWeb library, and ADDitude Magazine. She is a native West Virginian but spent much of her childhood and adolescence in the Deep South. She now lives in Morgantown, WV, with her husband, two daughters, and two cats. You can find her on Facebook (@stacey.elza) and TikTok (@sherantprincessofsour).