You stand before me in a red kimono,
scarlet cockatoo at the edge of a forest of green.
From behind the emerald curtain the woman watches.
I loll upon the throne, impassive and imperial,
my eyes expectant. You clap twice.
My gaze is lifted by the sound.
Cymbals crash as the crimson robe falls to the floor.

You approach, butterfly emerging from a torn cocoon,
perfumed letter sliding easily from its envelope,
the secret revealed but nothing is exposed.
My eyes flash in disappointment as I behold 
you discreetly veiled head to toe,
masked and bundled, silked and sashed, demure.
Danger hovers, the music writhes in sweet seduction.

You move directly in front of my dais,
kneel and look up into my face. I am regaled.
You are dominoed and demanding, calling my bluff.
You now discard your mask, reveal your face.
I blink twice as the realization dawns,
eyes of your mother, beauty of another age.
The tempo increases, you remove my thorny crown.

Child of my brother, Philip, both niece and daughter,
swirling about the throne, a whirling dervish in orbit
surrounding me, poised and closing,
drawn by the gravity of my lust, lost in the dance.   
Sharing your mother's secret, butterfly circles the fire,
with each revolution my expectation grows. I blaze.
Are you ready to consummate my desire?

As my inhibitions fall, I am conscious only of the fear
pulsing through my veins, exciting my body.
The years are stripped away. I view you
through the eyes of a younger man. I am aroused.
Each garment you remove exposes parts of my soul,
until, at last, I stand as naked as you,
my tormentor, as the music fades into the shadows.

I collapse back into the purple throne.
You approach, your arms reach out to firmly grasp
the royal head, my graying curls, to pull my face
against your breast.  Aghast, confused and lost,
I only have breath to make this plea, a passioned moan:
"Whatever you may ask is yours, upon my word as king."
These words you say: "I'll take the head of John."

And from the anteroom applause is heard,
a single pair of hands, sarcastic words
"Well done" from the lips of Herodias,
"Now go get dressed".  You exit stage right.
I am left with my promise and my chagrin,
foolish pawn in a cautionary tale, victim of a whim,
ironically, John's admirer. I cry when I see the head.

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Herod sitting on his throne

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