The book does not tell us, but she's beautiful
as she steps from the golden chair they bring
her in. The flesh of her thigh peeking beneath the sheer cloth.
Hair blue and darkened with henna. Eyes painted black.
Lips as well, and as plump as figs a man might
kill for. The gold and jewels on her arms, neck, ankles and breasts
astonish the eyes with the thought that so much wealth
is worn without a god striking you dead.
The princes laugh at him behind his back. Despite the flocks
of a man's woman in another man's bed. Or they say worse.
That he'd given her away to get those things.
Did water flow from his lids at night when he turned
and felt another's warmth in her place? Did a voice
cry nearby as if he had taken life and spilled
its blood on a temple floor? Was food like dirt
in the pit of his stomach? The book does not say.
You can only imagine what you might have done.
When she enters the tents, the scent of the perfumes
from the morning bath barely keep her from fainting
in the heat and smell of goat dung. Sour milk and buzzing flies.
From the darkened center, he begs her not to disdain his poverty.
He speaks in a dazed voice about Pharaoh's hands
touching her the way his had and the fire that still
lures him to her and that water could not douse.
She wants wine and to hear music again.
But she knows that Pharaoh had to send her back.
The cities are piled high with bodies and the
prophets say they dreamed she is this man's wife.
That the gods are angry and have cursed Pharaoh,
brother of the gods and upholder of right order.
She thinks, if he'd been a man he'd have died,
instead of telling Pharaoh she was his to have.
This man, her husband, her brother, tells her now
that he dreamt about the altar he built on the mountain.
The memory of it comes back to her slowly.
She hears him telling her then about a voice
he could not understand. How he feels clean.
The hair rising at the back of his neck.
They return by the same route they'd fled the famine.
This time with the soldiers as their shadows.
On the way, he says their children's children will know how she
was given back to him. That their deaths are in that other land.
She does not know anything about it. She is numb
with the rawness of the desert air. He acts like a
bird heading to warmth or a mother to her young.
There are other things he hears, but he cannot tell her.
The book says later that she loves him enough or believes
in the dreams enough to give him her slave to bear a son.
Then, after her blood stops flowing, she has Isaac, the one
who passes on the stories and the dreams. How he once acted
to save their skins. And how the angels came to her once,
and fear and the bitterness dropped away like dead wood.
At night, her stomach sometimes wrenches when she thinks
what she became in Pharaoh's house, in his arms. Whore. Slave.