Virgin Pictured in Profile: (For Ariel and Huxley Miller)

A white-gowned woman making offering
rests on one knee, the other raised.
Hands outstretched, palms down,
fingers slightly curved at the tips.
Spine a straight stem. The visible ear
left bare by the black, geometric coiffure.
Where does she gaze with that slant, blank eye?
The amphora before her is empty.
So are the bowl and narrow vase.
She kneels, rigid in ceremony.
No one stands near her, in front or in back,
and the world beyond is milk mist only.
They have gone: maidens, parents, the robed priest,
the people of her town, the gods, even.
So rapt she was
in the rite, she did not hear
when they called and trundled away.
Beams crumbled on sand and shards, and wind
curled in from the desert.
She did not hear, nor will she ever.
“Child, child, wake up,” had they cried,
but could not break her trance and so
departed, with all their belongings
wrapped in bright woven cloth, their dogs at their heels.
They died. Somewhere, the river rises still,
fish feed, and fields are tilled,
the newly dead are laid in the living earth.
Of this she will never know.
It is the perfection of emptiness
she offers now, as she offered eras ago.
No river rises to her wall,
mud-roiled, flooding with spring.
Her landscape is pure dust.
Nor will it be granted
to her who never soiled her loins with life
to enter, lotus in hand, and dressed as bride,
the full-thronged kingdom of the truly dead.