7 veils

After Herod’s men had done for me
and presented my severed head
to the assembled company–
their blanched and frozen leader
unable to meet my dead-eyed gaze–
I was whisked away from the party,
with its hush of consternation,
removed to Salomé’s chamber,
and left to rest upon my platter
like a newly roasted piece of meat.

Later she plaited her fingers in my
matted hair and lifted my face up to
greet hers, whispering a lover’s promise.
There was a rustling of gathered veils
followed by a darkness wherein I dreamt
of being caught within the muscular
swell of a rising tide.

The rocking motion
of the salty sea,
imprecations muffled
by the pressure
of clenching depths,
a sudden shuddering
baptism and final release
from the clutches of her vice.

I rolled away and awoke upon her pillow
where by her side I slept and died a second time,
dying as a brother to the great sinner Herod,
the both of us confounded by Satan’s tricks.

al May 2017


So, Salomé. Quite a tangled fable was built up around this feisty young lady, starting with an anonymous appearance in the Gospels (she was named later on by the first-century Romano-Jewish historian Josephus) as the daughter of Herodias who demanded the Baptist’s severed head from her drooling step-father, Herod. In front of bigwigs at his birthday banquet he promised her whatever she desired and she asked her mother for advice. Herodias took advantage of this opportunity to silence John once and for all. He had been banging on about the unlawful nature of her marriage to Herod for some time, but despite having the Baptist imprisoned, Herod was reluctant to make a martyr out of him by having him executed. The story of Salomé grew from here, largely due to Oscar Wilde’s eponymous play. He had been influenced by Flaubert’s story and Gustave Moreau’s paintings among others, but the hypersexual tempest that followed Wilde around was bound to concentrate prurient attention upon this play. He changed the focus of the story entirely, empowering Salomé and rendering her as the femme fatale who uses her sexually charged Dance of the Seven Veils to manipulate her step-father into getting what had been denied her: a lover’s kiss with John the Baptist.
Pictured above is the pianist and dancer Maud Allan appearing as Salomé sometime between 1906-1910. By all accounts, she got caught up herself in the hypersexual tempest!
More recently the Salomé fable is appearing at London’s National Theatre in a new production by Yaël Farber, emphasising the victimhood of Salomé. I heard about it on Radio 4’s Women’s Hour this morning. So there!

My drawing of Salomé’s washing-line is, I realised too late, missing a prop, so the veils are unable catch the morning breeze and dry more quickly. To be fair, they would have been harder to draw if they were flapping vigorously about; especially in a hypersexual tempest! (Enough already! Ed.)


5 comments on “7 veils”

  1. Interesting! Salomé has been a topic of conversation in our house recently, being an unusual ‘event’ in Elite:Dangerous a couple of weeks ago… #serendipitous

  2. The devious machinations brilliantly portrayed, along with the lustful urges. Love the humour and plain language description of events. Prop probably not needed with the searing heat!!!

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