The Death of Cleopatra
Juan Luna (c. 1881)
Luna depicted the Egyptian queen's suicide at the moment of its discovery: dressed in royal regalia, Cleopatra had just expired, along with a maid who just collapsed on the floor and another, on the verge of falling down. Barely seen at the foot of a pillar is the tail of a snake slithering away… — Philippine Daily Inquirer
She dreams in tongues. Words I haven't for the rich billow
of green and garnet robes splayed around her. Drunk
on the serpent's fond kiss, she feigns blindness,
pretends to be mute and deaf—inanimate, really. But I'm familiar
with the scrutiny of strangers, the kind she will never admit
she yearns for. Eyes tracing the tender curve of her breasts,
the waxen sheen of her arm, the concealed navel.
Long after the pyramids have crumbled and the great peninsula
spliced by a sliver of water, we will still think of her lovely
face, birthing maps in placid slumber: marble obelisks
carved from her cheeks, and the flesh of her lips
swapped for dunes stretching across Cairo's peripheries.
Speak up, darling, loud and clear. Is that a smile she's failing
to bury? Just the slightest hint of satisfaction, warm as venom
in her veins, the future grown soft in the folds of her palms.
By Vincen Gregory YuQLRS Vol. 17 No. 2 Apr 2018