David and Jonathan Meet in a Field Outside Ramah 

Poetry / Destiny O. Birdsong 


:: David and Jonathan Meet in a Field Outside Ramah ::

Monarchs they were, dusting the lilies 
with tunics bequeathed by a Titan they could not kill. 
One would sprout hematic wings from the chrysalis 
of a spear. The other would spindle the loss into 
wombs, spawning (separately) an architect and a rapist. 
But whatever is deeper than the love of women 
imbues them that day; its glory, as they say, 
the most beautiful of garlands. Brief. A girl’s. 
But God needs heroes, hosts, men of oil, 
so their departures are ordained, their hours 
sprinting away from them like the boy 
who scours the field for the prophetic arrow, 
his arms outstretched as a voice calls, “Hurry, hurry.” 
And so he does, but if it were up to him 
he would find nothing, just run on like that. Forever. 

From the writer


:: Account ::

I’ve been think­ing a lot about my beginnings—how I became the per­son and the poet I am. The Bible is undoubt­ed­ly the first poet­ry book I encoun­tered, and I find myself con­stant­ly return­ing to it, for the lan­guage but often to study the com­plex­i­ty of human rela­tion­ships. I’ve been think­ing a lot about end­ings too, par­tic­u­lar­ly friend­ships and how hard it can be to close the doors on them, even when it’s nec­es­sary. The truth is that, if Jonathan lives, David nev­er becomes king. This moment of part­ing is such a trau­mat­ic one for them, but the prophe­cies have been made, and there’s not much else to be done. I want­ed to write about all of that: the love and the impos­si­bil­i­ty and the long­ing that hap­pen side by side. Also, the line “the most beau­ti­ful of gar­lands. Brief. A girl’s.” is a nod to the final one in A. E. Houseman’s “To an Ath­lete Dying Young.” After the Bible, my next antholo­gies were my Eng­lish text­books, and it’s a poem I once read in one of them. I’ve loved it ever since. 


Des­tiny O. Bird­song is a Louisiana-born poet, essay­ist, and fic­tion writer whose work has either appeared or is forth­com­ing in the Paris Review Dai­ly, Poets & Writ­ers, Cat­a­pult, The Best Amer­i­can Poet­ry 2021, and else­where. Her debut poet­ry col­lec­tion, Nego­ti­a­tions, was pub­lished by Tin House Books in Octo­ber 2020, and was longlist­ed for the 2021 PEN/Voelcker Award. Her debut nov­el, Nobody’s Mag­ic, was pub­lished by Grand Cen­tral in Feb­ru­ary 2022 and won the 2022 Willie Mor­ris Award for South­ern Fic­tion. She now serves as a 2022–24 Artist-in-Res­i­dence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee in Knoxville.