Фаина Косс


(Free interpretation of the book by Robert Pinsky“The Life of David”)


“It s groan and weeping in Jerusalem. King David is leaving the city

Haste. Soldiers clatter with their armor. Slaves pack the line of carts, harness the horses, fill the carts with food provision, weapon, blankets in case of the cold nights somewhere in the wild. Nobody knows where they go. One thing is clear: the army of Absalom, the second son of King David is approaching the City of Jerusalem.

At the main gate of the City David went further ahead and the whole crowd of people moved after him. At the last house he stopped watching hundreds of soldiers, their relatives, their sons and families, foreign ambassadors, and their servants, and more of different colors crowds, and six hundred of the tribe of Gittites, which joined them in the area of Gaza.

Among them David noticed IttaiGittite and told him: “You are tired after yesterday, return to the City, have some rest. We don t know where we are going”.

“But Ittai answered the King: “As the Lord lives, and as my Lord lives, wherever my Lord the King shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be”.

And Davis said to Ittai: “Go then, pass on”. So, Ittai the Gittite passed on, with all of his men and all the little ones who were with him.

And all the country wept aloud as all the people passed by. And rhe King crossed the brook Kidron, and all the people passed on toward the wilderness.”

The priests of the Lord, too, begin to follow David into the wild with the holy ark; but David tells them to return with the ark to Jerusalem. He decided that his pious resignation to the Lord s judgement will also give him a valuable network of spies in Jerusalem.

“He says: “Carry the Ark of God back into the City. If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord he will bring me back. But if he says: “I have no pleasure in you; behold here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him”.

The King also said to Zadok- the priest: “Look, go back to the City, you and Abiathar with your two sons. I will wait at the fords of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me”.

So Zadok and Abiathar carried the Ark of God back to Jerusalem and they remained there.”

“David weeps as he leaves Jerusalem, climbing the ascent of the Mount of Olives, supplanted by the son his heart longed for, and needed to see again, even though Absalom killed Amnon, his firstborn. Moreover, even though David believed Absalom capable of killing all the King s sons.”

“So, David weeps, with his head covered and so too do his followers. He did not care that people might interpret the covered head and the weeping as evidence that the King has been unmanned. But at the summit, Hushai the Archite comes to meet the King, and David may be weeping with his head covered, but he has not lost his quickness. Having just set up the priests Zadok and Abiather as his spies, the King now creates a double agent. He says to Hushai:”If you go with me, you will be a burden to me, but if you return to the City and say to Absalom “I will be your servant, o King, as I have been your father s servant in time past, so now I will be your servant”, then you will defeat for me the counsel of Achtophel. So, whatever you hear from the King s house, tell it to Zadok and Abiather, the priests. Their sons will bring it to me”.

So, Hushai, David s friend, came into the City, just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem”.


Me and my daughter

I tell to myself: “Don tdeprive yourselfof your happiness – to be yourself. Don t interfere with your freedom. Don t affect their (my daughter and her boyfriend, who live on my territory)life together.

You want to be an angel – be it. You want to be a fallen angel – then fall. From the time of your last fall, no matter how much you try you can t raise back up to the level you touched once. Wy, wy, how much suffering it causes. How much repentance? But maybe I am mistaken. It s not a repentance. It s a surprise. Where all this is coming from? And what is so special about falling down? It s a pain from the hurt. And the craving for coming back up. How difficult it is to achieve the previous height. You gained weight. Not the body one. What a relief to pronounce a completed thought. As if you lost a couple of pounds.

“Go ahead, mammitta! By the way where are your children ?Your daughter and her boyfriend, those occupants of your tiny apartment?Oh, today is Sunday and they left for the remote beaches. And informed you only when came back, fresh and happy. They took the doggy with them too, not you. And the Old Man (the father of the boyfriend) is also alone in his wheel-chair. He is never informed about anything.

But I felt quite glad to spend some time in the silence of my own apartment. They don t admit, that it is my apartment. They don t help me to pay for it. They proclaim differently. The way that fits them better. But I am allowed to exist. You can live, mammitta, but don t doze off. We tolerate you, Your business is to pay for everything and we shall be patient. And if not – you will end up in the nursing home.


Oh, Absalom! — Bewailed the King David. —My son Absalom!

Oh, my daughter!—I am bewailing. – My children!

What beautiful lines can squeeze out the pain from your heart caused by the treachery.

* * *

The pain weakens from the time I understood how strong I am pulled to her with the desperate force – she was my little one forever. And now I became emotionally grown-up. I understood myself. I accepted her as she is and myself as I am. I forgot the time when we were in love with one another.


Absalom and Tamar

“Absalom, the son ofKing David, had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar. And Amnon, his brother, loved her. She was a virgin, and Amnon thought it s hard for him to do anything to her. He needed an advisor to help him with the rape.

Amnon had a friend Jonadab, the son of David s brother. He was a very crafty man. So, cousin Jonadab came ready with a scheme for the son of David, Amnon.Jonadab said unto him: “Lay thee down on thy bed and make thyself sick, and when thy father cometh to see you, say unto him: I pray thee, let Tamar my sister come and give me meat so I could eat it at her hand.”

“So, Tamar went to her brother Amnon s house and he was laid down.

And she took flour and made cakes in his sight. And did bake the cakes. But he refused to eat and said: “Have out all men from me”. And every man went out. And he said: “Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of thine hand”.

And when Tamar brought cakes unto him to eat he took hold of her and said to her: “Come lie with me, my sister”.

She said: “Nay, my brother, do not force me. Do not thou this folly. And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go?”

Marriage to a half-sister was allowed in the time of David, though later forbidden.

However he did not hearken her words, but, being stronger than she, forced her and lay with her.

Then Amnon hated her exceedingly, and he told her: “Arise, be gone”. Then he called his servant and said: “Put now this woman out from me and bolt the door after her”.

Absalom seems to know what has happened and towards his sister his tone seems almost dismissive, as though the rape were merely incidental to her, and now a business of his, the dishonored second in line of succession and not hers.”

His decision was to avenge her shame. To kill Amnon and to become a king of the country.


The days flow as little arrows. Every little arrow is a little killer, that diminish on life for a unit of time.

I hear my daughter s whisper to her boy-friend: “I ll kick her out of here and we shall stay in the apartment. I ll tell everybody that she is evil for people and we shall stay as the only ones who has the right to stay, and have happy life here. Don t worry.”

I was shocked and then frustrated, and then I did not believe to my ears. I was looking at the top of the sixth floor of our building and imagined myself jumping down. My daughter wanted me out of my own house to stay as a happy family with her boy-friend.


I am reading the book about King David and his son Absalom again and further down about king s unconditional love to his betrayer.

The sons of David all attend the festival of Absalom s sheepshearing at Baalhazor, and Absalom sees to it that Amnon does not survive the gathering. There he killed Amnon.

“All the King s sons arose and every man got him upon his mule and fled.”

Meanwhile their father believes the rumor: Absalom has slain all the King s sons and there is not one of them left. The King believed it and was desperate.

“But Amnon s advisor Jonadab said: “Let not Lord suppose that they have slain all the King s sons, for Amnon only is dead. For by the command of Adsalom this has been determined from the day he, Amnon, forced his sister Tamar. Amnon alone is dead”.

The King feels the web of intrigue. Many years ago he ordered the death ofUriah, the husband of Bathsheba s whom he wanted to merry and their first baby died as a punishment for this deal. The King can t punish his son Amnon, who also created a criminal sin. This takes on himself his beloved son Absalom.

So, David s heart is with the living son, who committed a crime, killing the tsar s heir and who has to hide now for three years in another city.

But three years past and he wants Absalom s return. So David orders servants to go to Geshur and bring Absolom back to Israel, but not see the face of his father for two years. With the death of Amnon Absalom becomes the eldest son of David and next King.

Still Absalom wants to see his father s face.

“And David is agree to see him/ And when he had called for Adsalom, he came to the King and bowed himself on his face to the ground before his King. And the King kissed Absalom.

Years have passed since Amnon s conference with Jonadab concerning Amnon s desire for his half-sister. Absalom is himself a father now. And unto Absalom there were born three sons and the daughter, whose name was Tamar. She was a woman of a fair countenance”.


The Death of Adsalom.“Would God I had died for thee”

The voice of the woman at the background, the mother of the grown up daughter (the crying complain): “She continues to distribute bad rumors about me and my mental health. She tells everybody, that my place is in the nursery house for mentally disturbed. She sais I smile when I am sleeping and that I sing songs – prayers, awakeningand we (she and her boy-friend) sleep on the floor and have nowhere to go. We can t afford a good apartment. We can t afford to live in such a discomfort. Time is passing by. Time works for us: longer we are living like this, more strong our legal right to stay and send her to the nursery.”

 I turned the page of the book where it is told how Adsalom greets and chats up at the gates of the court, dirtying the reputation of his father David.“But to be popular is not to be chosen”, says the author of the book. “The story of David is a story of flawed fathers, of unexpectedly powerful women and of defiant sons”.

“Amplifying his physical beauty with the chariot and the fifty attendants running ahead of it, Absalom at the same time works to present himself as a generous man of the people, greeting those who come to the court for a royal audience or judgment”. The grand chariot and the little chats at the gateway embodies Absalom s largely successful campaign to become a popular King instead of David. He does not understand that the real leader was born printed with that quality, as we are born with our chins and noses. He was wild, avenging Tamar s rape, not behaving like a King at all.

David says about himself that he is the beloved not only of the serving girls and the soldiers and the people who chant his praises, but of God. “The King is born a King”. “

“The exodus of David s forces as he flees his City, demonstrates how many of David s followers have been drawn from outside the children of Israel”.

I think about David s endless ability to forgive and spare Absalom.

“In Jerusalem the legendary wise man tells Absalom what to do next. The young man should take the women David has left behind to watch over his house and everyone should know this. The public indignity will make it clear, that Absalom has overthrown his predecessor.”

So they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house of and Absalom went into his father s concubines in the sight of all Israel.

The wise man was in some accounts the grandfather of Bathsheba, the first wife of David. And the roof along with the sexual transgression recalled her story with the killing her husband and death of the first born child of David as a punishment for killing Bathsheba s husband.

It s another revenge for David. It was supposed to strengthen Absalom politically by making the break with David more absolute and passionate.

“The forces of David demolished Absalom s army in a great rout. In the confusion the servants of David come across Absalom, riding his mule and in bizarre image of helplessness and stupid disaster, his mount wedges Absalom by the head into the low-hanging branches of a tree. The mule continuous on without him. Somebody told this to Joab and Joab took three darts into his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom”.

When the news of Absalom s death comes to David he went up to the chamber and wept: “Oh, my son Absalom, my son Absalom. Would God I had died for thee”. And he repeats it again in his house, when the victorious army returns to the City.

He died, Absalom, and the war is over.

The voice of the woman at the background:And she comes back to me, my beloved daughter, with the smile on her dangerous lips. And I feel like a blessed King resurrected from the possible death: “Would God I had died for you”.

That s a story of King s unconditional love.


Faina Koss.Was born in Ural Mountains, 1942. From 1946 lived in Leningrad. Graduated from the Leningrad State University.Philologist.Started to write short-stories being a student. Participated in non-conformists movement.From 1980 lives with the daughter in New York.Author of three novels.Published several books. Also published short-stories in Russian-American magazines and newspapers. 




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