Midge Goldberg


The Other Mother

“But the woman whose son was the live one pleaded with the king, for she was overcome
with compassion for her son. ‘Please, my lord,’ she cried, “give her the live child; only don’t kill it!”
The other insisted, ‘It shall be neither yours nor mine; cut it in two!’”
—1 Kings 3:26

Does anyone believe that I would kill
that baby, just because it wasn’t mine?
I come off cruel and negligent and shrill,
and Solomon as kingly and benign.

There is a story that I overheard
that has the makings of a PR coup!
Two babies born, one dead (and I inferred
it was the mother’s fault, though no one knew).

They got a few things right, but just a few.
My sister lived with me, my baby died
that night, her child survived—those parts are true.
I wasn’t blamed—she held me while I cried.

It practically writes itself, and it will start
this youthful king’s career, make him look wise.
She’ll swap them (babies are hard to tell apart)—
there will be prostitutes, threats, tears, and lies!

The rest? All lies, yes, every single word.
We weren’t prostitutes, no swap, no sword.
We were a story someone overheard
and then wrote up as PR for his lord.

Then, enter Solomon—he’ll have a sword!
Threaten the baby, that’ll make them tell
whose child it is! And who looks good? My lord—
his rule’s solidified, and all ends well.

So now he’s known as wise, and glorified.
No one remembers that my baby died.

I’ll lead with this: “Wise Ruling Saves the Day.”
(That woman? No one knows her anyway.)

Midge Goldberg’s third collection, To Be Opened After My Death (Kelsay Books), was published in 2021. She is the editor of the anthology Outer Space: 100 Poems (Cambridge University Press, 2022). She received the Richard Wilbur Award and the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. She still lives in New Hampshire with those darn chickens (and her family).