Reflecting on ‘Love, Solomon,’ my first published short story

One writer of a famous American classic once said he would love to rewrite parts of the book. Just as painters talk about never completing the “perfect” painting, writers often agonize over a published piece of work that isn’t “perfect.”

Parody singer “Weird Al” Yankovic echoed this thought on his website, saying, “I could work on an album forever, but like anything else of a creative nature, at a certain point you just have to ‘give up’ on it and let it live its own life.”

My first published short story was Love, Solomon, published in the November/December 2000 issue of the Austin-based True Believer magazine. Unfortunately, this magazine no longer exists (I’m certain, though, my short story had nothing to do with its demise). It’s a shame, since they were interested in publishing more fiction from me before deciding to go in a non-fiction direction.

I was 27 when this story was published, and I’d probably complete rewrite it today. The author’s note almost seems comical now, as if guiding the reader as they read a “great” work of fiction. Here it is, as it was…

Love, Solomon

By Richard Zowie

Author’s note: Although no archaeologist has ever discovered a letter written by Solomon to his son Rehoboam, there is also no proof that such a letter never actually existed. The following, therefore, is a work of fiction by the author.

The Song of Songs and The Preacher, the two books of Solomon referenced in the story, are the literal Hebrew translations of The Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes. These are the titles Solomon would have known them as; the contemporary titles we known them by weren’t given to them until the Bible was translated into English.

To My Dear Son Rehoboam:

My son, as I write this to you, I am old and greatly stricken with years. I have ruled Israel as King for forty years, as did your grandfather David. In the time that I have lived and reigned I have seen many things. Many of the things I have seen and experienced have been very empty and heartbreaking, so I decided long ago that I should write a letter to you and share the things I have learned.

I recall a dream I had shortly after I began my reign as King of Israel. In the dream, the LORD God appeared to me. He told me I could have whatsoever I desired. Needless to say many things came into my mind. Wealth. Women. Power. Fame. A long life. Now, to a young man such as you who has never known poverty, it would amaze you that I chose none of those things. Instead, I asked the LORD God for wisdom. I desired wisdom to govern my people, wisdom in learning, and wisdom in understanding. There was nothing more in the world that I desired than to possess knowledge and wisdom.

God was gracious enough to give me wisdom and understanding. It’s been a long time, but I can still clearly remember in my dream that He gave me a bonus for my request. He told me, “Because you did not ask for wealth, power, or old age, I will give all these things to you.” And indeed he did! In my prime I was the wealthiest, famous, most learned man in the world. I even had a visit from the Queen of Sheba, which I’m sure you remember from your adolescent years. It still amuses me when she told me that my wisdom was even far greater than what she had heard.

What I am trying to tell you, my son, is that wisdom is of little use if not put to practice. Unfortunately, more often than not I was not true to the God of Israel. I worshiped false gods, I had wives who do not know the LORD God, and I gave into my selfishness much more often than I should have. I did all these things knowing that they were wrong to do. This was, without question, my greatest folly.

As I prepare to leave this world and go on to join your grandparents and ancestors in paradise, I hope and pray that you learn from my mistakes. In my lifetime I have written three books that I leave for you to study and learn: The Book of Proverbs, The Song of Songs and The Preacher.*

The Book of Proverbs is a collection of both my writings and other’s writings. It consists of observations and lessons about life, as well as sayings that reflect inherent truths. Read this book daily, even if it’s only a chapter a day.

The Song of Songs is, to put it bluntly, a book about love and sex. Although it may seem odd to some that the LORD God would inspire me to write a Song about intimacy, it seems fitting, though, since so many people live in relationships that are founded upon sex instead of love. This book, my son, represents romance as God intends it. I have been a hypocrite and a terrible example by having seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines; please do not make the same mistake I did. Limit yourself to one wife, as God gave Adam but Eve. Center all your love, both physical and emotional, on her and her only.

The Preacher is perhaps the most complex of the three. It represents perhaps some of my most intimate and intricate thoughts on life. This book is my account of my attempts to find happiness apart from God. You see, son, I lived my life largely for myself. I did things that made me happy. I never denied myself in any of my pursuits of pleasure, and I strived continually to make myself completely happy. I tried, son, to give myself a happiness that only God Himself can provide. In short, my son, despite having all of my material desires fulfilled, I was completely miserable. For us to try to fill that void in our lives that only God is capable of filling is the ultimate vanity of life. Please remember this; failure to do so can and will be fatal.

Read this letter diligently, my son. Please do your best to heed it. My heart grieves to know that I have been a terrible example to you and others as a father, a friend, a husband, and as a follower of the Lord God. Do better than I have and the Lord will reward you limitlessly.

I love you.

Your Loving Father,

Solomon

The titles Song of Songs and The Preacher are both literal translations of the Hebrew titles Shir HaShirim and Qoheleth. In most Bibles they are known as Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, respectively.

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New poems for 12-1-2011

9-29-2011 — Fun With Cooking

Life is far too boring

                        dull

                        lackluster

To microwave TV dinners

To cook with premade sauces.

The kitchen should be a playground

                                           lab

To cook

      experiment

      taste

      create

To smile

When your culinary crdeations

Make your children

                    and others

Happy.

11-23-2011 — Sky, China, Russia

The sky, the heavens

Silver, gold,

Fiery red, blue, purple, green

Playground

Showcasing

God’s creativity

中国人们说:

你好,水星,火星,木星!

Русские говорят:

Здравствуйте, Солнце и Плутон!

We say,

Hello, sun, Sirius B, Proxima Centauri, Betelgeuse, Andromeda Galaxy!

11-26-2011 — Sylvia Plath 

At the bookstore

Within the sea of books

I found

Ms. Sylvia Plath.

Sky-high talent,

Sky-high surreal imagery,

Sky-high sadness,

Even across time,

My heart hurts.

11-26-2011 — Haiku about Jupiter 

Bright, bright moving star

Far East they call you 木 星

Mysteries endless!

11-26-2011 — Thirty Years as a Christian

Even at тридцать лет

There is still

So much

Of God

Of Jesus

Of the Bible

Я еще не понимаю.

11-26-2011 — When sleep is evasive 

When sleep is evasive

My head feels warm

My thoughts can’t connect

Everything’s uphill.

I’m in a haze

Many things seem hilarious.

My pillow, sheets

Become a

Freshly-laundered and dried cotton cloud.

11-29-2011 — Sun, moon, brightness

One day,

Countless 月 ago,

日was lonely

As was 月.

They consoled each other,

Found brightness in each other.

Soon,

日and 月

Became 明.

11-29-2011 — Michael Jordan? Wasn’t he an athlete?

The day will arrive

Perhaps untold, countless

Lunar orbits from now

When space stations orbit Jupiter

To try to unlock the under-the-cloud mysteries that abound

When a basketball player

Will hear the name

Michael Jordan

And will respond with a

Blank, void, gaze.

Even superheroes

Eventually are

Superforgotten.

11-29-2011 — Solomon’s books

Proverbs,

Ecclesiastes,

Song of Solomon.

Three books

Solomon wrote

With this message:

THIS is what I

SHOULD HAVE DONE

with my life!!!”

11-29-2011 — Jupiter and other gas giants hold emergency meeting

I wonder if

The day will come

When

Jupiter

will gather

Saturn, Uranus, Neptune

And tell them:

“Someday

People from that tiny round blue ball

Will orbit us

And extract our hydrogen

And other resources

Until all that’s left

Are our rocky cores!

We must do something!”

11-30-2011 — Chinese haiku about astronomy, planets and telescopes

[I spent eight months of my life formally studying Mandarin Chinese at the Army’s Defense Language Institute. I also have access to online Chinese dictionaries. Any errors in writing in Chinese characters are solely my own. — Richard Zowie (or, as I was called in Chinese, 左瑞查)]

我看了木星

每天在天明烽火

望远镜在哪?

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardzowie@gmail.com.

‘Ozymandias’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of my favorite poems

I had to recite Mr. Shelley’s poem about a long-gone, once-powerful king for Speech 101 at Pensacola Christian College. It fascinated me and reminded me a lot of what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes about how people who are powerful rulers in their time eventually will be all but forgotten by future generations. It also reminds me of Amsterdam Vallon’s words at the end of the 2002 Martin Scorsese film Gangs of New York lamenting that while the gangs of New York fought in 1863 for control of the city, eventually to future generations it would be as if the gangs never existed.

Richard Zowie’s a professional writer who, perhaps, at times has too much time on his hands to think strange thoughts. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.