Poetry June 2006

Samson in Love

“Out of the eater came forth meat,
and out of the strong came forth sweetness.”
Judges 14:14

This is the first time he has killed a lion.
Inside the ribs a swarm of bees lies
nested there, and honey comes.
He reaches down inside the ribs
to where a sweetness runs,
and he thinks of the woman he has seen today.

The bare form of her face today
came in stronger than this lion.
Now he takes one rib, and a foam of bees runs
around his wrist—a smell so strong he lies
down. Still in his mind her eyes black open, small ribs
rounding her heart. She comes and comes.

When he tears back the head, what comes
brings him toward prayer today,
and every day, remembering the ribs
licked clean. The flower of flesh from lion,
and woman, too—what love lies
near the place where one stream runs?

The lion’s flesh half gone, marrow runs
to ash. He claps the old blood down and comes
into Cities of Spring. A whole dry world lies
beneath his wish to touch today
with his bare hands both woman and lion—
to take apart the ribs.

Smoke swells up into her ribs.
She loves the way he runs.
The breath of bees humming in the lion;
yet around his wrist the woman’s breath comes
down hard and makes him stir today
inside his bones. He lies
to her about his hair. He lies

about the swarm of bees and the ribs
his hand scooped honey from today.
When she touches him with her bare hands, he runs,
so she closes up her palm, and sweetness comes
into the oldest honeycomb—inside her chest of lion.

She waits, so still she lies, too raw for mending runs—
with raging bees inside her ribs, the honey comes.
He does not know, today, if he has killed or loved this lion.

Presented by

Elizabeth Cox is the author of several works of fiction, including the novels Familiar Ground (1984), Night Talk (1998), and The Slow Moon, to be published this summer. She teaches at Wofford College.

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This wildly inventive short film takes you on a whirling, spinning tour of the Big Apple

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In