Who is she who comes?
What is that coming up from the wilderness like columns of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of a merchant? (Leviticus 2:1)
She who is the personification of beauty
She who is all powerful
She with riches beyond compare
She who was summoned by a hoopoe bowing his golden crown
She whose intelligence and wit make her the equal of Solomon
She who came with riddles across deserts in her quest for wisdom
She who brought frankincense, gold, myrrh: in this queen from the south was the trinity of kings
She who acclaimed, sum nigra sed formosa, I am black yet comely
She who worshipped the Sun God Ra
She who was temptress, an enigma, mysterious, miraculously healed
She who was breathless after her encounter, returned home and bore a son
She who is immortalised in the Bible, the Quran, the Talmud
She who is revered by Rastafarians, the Yoruba
She who is referred to as Nicaula, Sibylla, Makeda, if never definitively given a name
She whose kingdom is unknown: Yemen or Egypt, Ethiopia or the land of Punt.
Salutations, O Queen of Sheba!
hers was a trade mission
the Song of Songs is a celebration of life, the making of poetry
she’s a muse, from Della Francesco to Duncan Grant, to the stuff of Holywood
she can be merged with the Sibyl Sabba, Lilith, may be Hecate’s daughter
she’s linked to grandmother’s footsteps, that game of old witch
she is black yet shown with golden hair
it’s unlikely anyone would answer the summons of a bird
Solomon’s floor mirrored her hairy legs and cloven foot creating a parallel with Queen Berthe’s leg or even Cinderella who was proven by a foot
she’s no more real than Lady Macbeth, who cried out that not all the perfumes of Arabia could sweeten her bloodied hands
there’s even doubt as to why her empire has not been categorically located
Salutations, salaam, Sheba, Queen of Sheba
Mary Mulholland came to poetry after careers in journalism and psychotherapy. She has a Poetry MA from Newcastle and has been published in magazines and anthologies. She won the US Momaya prize in 2019, and has been commended and shortlisted in several national competitions. She co-edits The Alchemy Spoon.