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At first

Pharaoh doesn't notice the cup

he is looking down

at the crowds of supplicants

who grovel before him

he tries not to yawn

and fixes his fierce eyes

on the distant pyramid

that only he sees

reflected

in the glittering facets

of the rubies

embedded in his sceptre

then the silence

is broken

by the wail of a woman

who has been wronged

by her husband

and seeks justice

from the mighty god

Pharaoh

he glances down at her

then motions slightly to a guard

who strikes her

and silence descends

once more upon his court

Pharaoh is disturbed

distracted

he has heard rumours of war

famine

pestilence

disease

a revolt

of distant subject peoples

and worst of all

rumours from his

fiftieth favourite wife

that the son

of his first favourite

wife and queen

is plotting

to take control of his army

overthrow the kingdom

and build a new capital

to the north

beads of sweat

gleam

through Pharaoh's makeup

they drip

down the pale left side

of his face

the side that brings

the rain

when he inclines it

so

to the east wind

and the sweat drips

down the right side

of Pharaoh's face

the side that's painted

brown

like the Nile mud

that brings life

and prosperity

to his people

and thus to him

eunuchs

wave fans of ostrich plumes

to cool their king

but his agony continues

and in awful silence

he begins to plan

the death

of those who defy him

it's only then

he remembers

the cup

I slipped in his hand

it seems so many hours ago

he grips the golden

stem of the cup

raises it to his lips

his face

fierce

as a griffin's

runs with sweat

like wet stone on a mountain

but at last

he drinks

the wine I have squeezed

with my own bare hands

and a smile breaks on his face

like the sun on the Nile

when a morning fog

lifts

it is good to see

this benevolent

man-who-is-god

smiling again

the court

hums back to life

the supplicants

look hopeful now

the imagined wicked son

is forgotten

disaster averted

great Pharaoh

looks to me

fingers the edge of my cloak

and draws me to him

his eyes are red

water wells in them

his breathe

is sweet as honey

he draws me close

and smiles again

as his lips

meet mine

and I dissolve

into a thousand

murmurings

of

joy

 

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