Jael

By Nancy Hightower

Then Jael, Heber's wife, took a nail of the tent, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it to the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
    —Judges 4:21

such a muted sound at first

as spike hits skin, then,

the skull's soft crunch.

one would think murder made more noise—

like a battering ram against the temple,

but no, just a simple tent nail

and a cup of milk;

we women have our ways.

had i more time, i would have cooked,

made the bed, washed the dishes—

scheduled in the killing.

but he had come quickly, galloped

himself into my sanctuary,

heaving breath in muffled gasps

and war-weary, as men often are.

i became an eagle, feathers spread,

talons reaching as i flew out to meet him,

and he, thinking i was his dove, his mother hen,

came under my wings, shadow-filled.

i wrapped their warmth around him with

my voice spinning lies, quilted comfort,

my hands tucking in the folds of the blanket

as he slipped into that dream-quenching slumber.

i almost kissed his brow

to drive the pin through.

his mother, far away,

felt the breeze of my hand as it came down,

gentle, a loving breath upon her cheek,

thought her son had come back early in victory,

and opened her arms wide in ready embrace.

when she turned,

her eyes beheld nothing

but red leaves falling

in the morning wind.


Nancy Hightower lectures on the rhetorics of the grotesque and fantastic in art, film, and literature. She is an art columnist for Weird Fiction Review and has had work published in Word Riot, Prick of the Spindle, storySouth, and Bourbon Penn, among others.

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