She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” – Mark 6:24a
What a triumph! What a dance!
The rumbles of applause! The smiles of delight!
The air is barely filling up my heaving lungs
as I give honors to the cheers.
Reward! A gift! My father wishes me to have a gift!
But what? My breathing has not slowed,
my mind is all a-whirl as surely as my limbs
where whirling just a moment past.
To mother then: “What shall I ask? What gift?”
She looks nonplussed. Then suddenly a smile,
hardly pleasant, but a smile resolute,
has shaken out the stillness of her face.
“Ask, daughter, for the head of John the Baptist.”
What? Can I believe my ears? My head
is twirling with a disbelief that my young life
has danced so joyfully for death.
I see no hesitation in her glance
that darts upon the king. His look of shock
has shaken quickly to a look of… power…
and a hint of admiration for the queen.
Well, then. I choose: “Bring me the head
of John the Baptist on a silver tray,”
I say in voice that only trembles with exertion.
The king my father nods and sends the man.
We watch our faces, back and forth, we three,
to see if one will blink, recall this fatal course.
None has. None does. None will. And so
the baptizer will take his bath of blood.
The head that lies before me is expressionless,
the platter spattered in carnelian.
Now king and queen regard no more their dancing daughter.
They nod once more. The deed is done.
A poem/prayer based on Mark 6:14-29, the Revised Common Lectionary Epistle Reading for Year B, Proper 10 (15).
The image is Herodias by Ivan Kramskoi – http://www.art-catalog.ru/picture.php?id_picture=16421, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73681655.