This is an ekphrastic poem on the Gustave Moreau’s painting, Salomé Dansant Avant Hérode (1876), pictured below. The scene depicts the biblical account of Salomé who, summoned to dance for her the Tetrach of Herod and upon request of her mother, ordered the severed head of John the Baptiste. I followed Moreau’s unique Orientalist depiction of Salome in my poem, emphasizing the symbolic powers of the Lotus flower she holds out in front of her. I refer to the Egyptian god of the sun, Nefertem, and the fertile, rebirthing power of the Lotus flower as an ironic portrayal of this “immortal goddess of Hysteria.”
A suspended throne poised on high,
Lofty as an altar ‘scap’d to the sky
And lodg’d firmly in Immanuel’s Breast,
Towers over an enchased sardonyx chest.
Surmounted upon the tabernacle, eyes
Drawn to the right, peering from his guise,
Of Cinereal folds, the Herod of Tetrach unthrust
Of veiled desires, seized in a shimmering hour of lust.
Summoned by chords and cloaked in a shimmering cirrus,
Salome emerges luminous behind the mitre scepter of Isis:
This Lotus-coryphée, enclosing the pining altar,
She glides along the eternal pull of Primeval Waters,
Absolved under the surface at twilight. She commences
Her chimerical dance – an improviso act of evanescence –
Treading her steps in the wake of sunbeams that loom,
From Nefertem’s crown to the pulsing sickle of the moon.
Her covenant dappled in blood, fixing the Tetrarch encased
In ferrous lust, fatally bound by petals of luxuriant chaste.
By Quincy Childs