Drawn to seek but not to fully understand, the poet questions, ponders, analyzes, interprets, and waits for inspiration. Taken from the story in which the Hoopoe bird provides protective cover for the head of King Solomon throughout a very long journey, the title poem exemplifies more than the narrator’s scathing criticism of Solomon’s life. Indeed the wisdom of the ancient King’s decision to divide a contested child in two leaves her cold. One criticism leads to another, including one noting how fantastic was Solomon’s idea to build a showy temple for a people who had so little faith at that time, how Solomon was just too dumb to “…factor in the pounding sun (apparently the refinements of his wisdom/don’t extend themselves to head coverings)…,” and how he ended his life worshipping idols. On and on her reflections go, but they end with quite a punch: “…But I have learned something;/it’s a bankrupt business, ornamentation,/idolatrous, at worst; at best, an aching/absence of whatever it is that matters./Alittle wisdom is a relentless thing…” The remainder of the collection consists of musings composed during the poet’s sojourn in Israel, a place she experienced as “austere” and which made her wonder exactly what is good and what is evil. Rather than putting off the reader, these poems are riveting in their conversational intensity but lightness. The reader recognizes how deeply the author has been touched on reading “Slim Fantasia on a Few Words from Hosea.” Repeatedly, the pattern seems to be narrative attack but in between and within the words is the essence of what is moving the poet’s mind, heart, and Spirit, “…hey, bigmouth poet,/lifting the gem-/stones from the Bible:/take words with you/and return to God.” Indeed, the hoopoe’s crown has covered Solomon, and God’s wisdom continues to move Jews in Israel and elsewhere.
Deborah Schoeneman, is a former English teacher/Writing Across the Curriculum Center Coordinator at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School and coeditor of Modern American Literature: A Library of Literary Criticism, Vol. VI, published in 1997.