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Samson in Love

By Elizabeth Cox
The Atlantic Monthly, June, 2006

"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, 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
he 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.