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As her dance dissolves and smiling Salome
Sashays across the floor in smoky veils
To join her scheming mother, Herod sighs,
Seeing how foolishly he’s just behaved”
Losing his head to such a vapid girl,
Whose liquid rippling of breasts and thighs
Writhing in time to pipes and throbbing drums
Had teased a promise from him worth a kingdom.

His feet still tapping on the marble floor,
He sees his bride Herodias convey
Her wishes to the girl, then Salome
Mincing across the tiles, at whose request
For John the Baptist’s head served on a dish,
A knot of horror tightens in his chest.
He eyes his wife and stepchild with disgust,
Seeing how they, with threads of pride and lust,
Have tied him in a knot he can’t escape.
Bound by his word to honor the girl’s wish,
He issues orders curtly, to save face
Before his guards and guests . . . and only later,
As rumor of a new redeemer spreads,
Curses the witching music and wild dance
That tricked him from a world of consequence
Into a state where sad-eyed holy men
Whirl past in blurring veils of incarnation.

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