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Dismissed palace servitors leave her to disrobe
immured amid the mikvah’s white limestone,
the chamber empty but for perfume amphorae,
olive oil cruses, strigils to scrape pelts smooth.
She perceives a male shadow, listens to footfalls,
observes the countenance of the king,
who peers into her eyes with a lamentation
lorn and reft of words, of breath, contradicting
that first rooftop aperçu that ushered them
to shame and the anguish of a lifeless infant
haunting them from a distance evermore.
With bare hands he anoints her body
vigorously, as if laving the grime of sin;
naked and oiled, she witnesses his seethe
and with hymeneal ease takes his hand
so that in unison they submerge in water
waist-high and warm, made warmer still
as they desperately entwine and swive,
fingertips on shoulders, lips on paps,
gasping and wiping away the other’s tears
into the water that cleanses and purifies
ritually, renewing them, they crave,
for years and yearnings still to come.