HomeSouthern VoiceRizpah to the Rescue

Rizpah to the Rescue

by Ronnie Sirmans


From a letter to Georgia gardening columnist
Walter Reeves from a reader in Jesup: A friend
is having problems with buzzards. Forty of them
gather on her roof each day … Any suggestions?


It rained for forty days and forty nights
I learned so long ago in Sunday school.
Satan tempted Jesus for forty days, too.
But what to make of forty buzzards whose
macabre pellets must roll down the shingles?
The columnist gives the answer that anyone
could guess if they knew their Bible lessons:
Killing them is forbidden. (You could, but
you’d get thrown into prison or out of Eden.)

More questions must be asked, I thought,
as I read what the expert had to say,
advising a motion-activated water-sprayer
near where they land, but then wouldn’t
it seem to rain day after day after day?
More questions must be asked, I thought.
Is each buzzard a token of time? A tribulation?
Or is it as simple as: What in the house is dead?
Is it the couple’s love? Is it a child? A pet?
A wayward squirrel in the attic? Buzzard talons
must make quite a racket as the committee preys.

I remember Rizpah, and how she spent months
on a hill warding off the birds and the beasts
after her two sons and five others were hanged
when King David gave them up to a vengeful lot.
I can see Saul’s strong concubine now,
careening down the street in a truck,
perhaps with a bobble-head buzzard atop.

“Rizpah,” the king whispered as psalm to her task.
David relented — her sons, and Merab’s, were buried,
and even Saul and Jonathan were laid to rest at last.
Through the modern house she would ascend,
with only herself, stronger than any spray of water,
her nurture versus nature, and no misgiving.
Rizpah would open a window at the roof’s gable,
ready again to protect the dead from the living.


Ronnie Sirmans is an editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His poetry has appeared in The South Carolina Review, The Behemoth, Gargoyle, BlazeVOX and elsewhere.

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