She gave me a name that means ‘bitter, uncertain’
Because my land and her song were bitter, uncertain.
The sweet kiss of youth meant nothing to me;
in my school, the young were bitter, uncertain.
We refused to take candy from enemy soldiers.
We knew we were stronger bitter, uncertain.
She watched and she waited for a man to adore me.
But my heart was a stranger, bitter, uncertain.
And when I fell hard for the one I should not have
I came home to harangue her, bitter, uncertain.
She made couscous, falafel, pita bread, za’atar:
I fed on my hunger, bitter, uncertain.
At last she said Daughter, if you must then you must —
I knew the words she had strung were bitter, uncertain.
Eighteen months later, her voice lost its power.
I bent down to sponge her, bitter, uncertain.
Bless him, she whispered, your husband, my son:
Mariam, you’re no longer bitter, uncertain.
The Strange Wife
Commissioned by the Southbank Centre and the Bush Theatre for Sixty Six Books – 66 writers responding each to a book of the King James Bible – The Strange Wife is a short verse drama based on The Book of Erza. Set in contemporary Jerusalem, it casts the prophet as a 100 year old Zionist Israeli, forced to confront his grandson Yonatan’s marriage to Mariam, a Palestinian activist. Using verse forms ranging from Blakean quatrains and Biblical litanies to the Persian/Arabic ghazal, Naomi Foyle sensitively explores a volatile political conflict within the context of family life and care for the aged.
Directed by Charlotte Westenra, and starring Leonard Fenton, John Lightbody and Sasha Behar, The Strange Wife was produced at the new Bush Theatre in Oct 2011.