Palms sticky sweetmeat in her black swan hands
hands calloused from sword’s hilt, fingers delicate as feathers, sore.
Feet naked and darkened like the boys, but not like them.
They jostled each other, young bronze lions, but kept a distance
Between her awkward body and themselves. Across the cold stone.
Wary of her sloe eyes. Her kohl wings, learning men things.
She was always hungry, her birth father said
Born with mouth open but silent, one eye on wet breast
The other towards the coming sun.
Palace walls expanded with each breath.
Flocks of blackbirds stacked like pyramids in sky.
Shadow crossing the moon. Hittite mothers weeping in their sleep
While babies smiled, ready for the kiss. A perfect Nile dawn
Not seen for one hundred years. Hathor’s temple stairs wet where no one had
Poured water. In the daylight, the girlchild only swam on her back.
At night, her father spelled leader, king, pharaoh on her chest,
Gilded her ears with charms, protection spells: whispered, it will hurt.
Leaving always hurts.