Pavane For A Dead Princess

She had the good grace
to die young
before the grueling desert sun
melted the kohl around her eyes
and creased her face
like a crumpled paper bag.
Her beauty’s sealed up tight
beneath the bands of linen
like a Christmas gift
you leave unopened.
Her body’s hollowed out
like a tin drum.
All that remains is
her child’s heart,
ready to be weighed
against a feather
and found worthy.
The other organs lie
in canopic jars
with gods-head lids
beside the small clay figures
who keep close watch.

She was about your age,
I tell my daughter
as we file past.
She raps gently on the glass,
half- expecting her to stir,
but it’s been centuries
since she sailed away
in her slender wooden craft,
her speech and limbs restored
by the high priest’s adz.

She reclines now on the other side,
surrounded by her combs
and scarab amulets,
nodding to the servants
who bathe her feet
with lavender and rose
and anoint her with spices
you and I can only dream of.

(originally published in Penumbra Madrid)



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