by Jess Bell
Cinema: Joseph-King of dreams
Admit this: your careless beauty has driven me to torment. It wrings out swoons and sighs. It gouges out the tears that have mingled with Isis’s to flood the Nile. My husband and the others – they are gathered by the engorged riverbanks, hitched to deep contentment still. For on this supreme Festival of the Nile, they
are able to dance and give shouts of joy, to shake tambourines whilst singing. But, for now, I knuckle under your callow mastery.
You won’t let me steal so much as a fragment of your dreamful smile – those heights, I know, would surpass every good thing. But I mourn for those who are starved of the rushing glories of experiencing you. The women of this city tried to debunk my adoration. But their whispers stilled and went limp at your rarity. When I arranged for you to walk into my banquet while those women were peeling citrons, all of them sliced their hands, because they were so distracted by you. You made their blood beat warm in spite of themselves, the thrill of you a citrus sting.
Those guests said you are a noble angel, not a man.
I am tattered and frail from being unkissed by you – but, only a little while ago, I darned myself at the temple. These cream brocade garments and these onyx stone bracelets. This jasmine garland, and this wreath of saffron spice. These are the ways I have made ablution for how I will now receive you, unabridged. So do not accuse my body and draw near. Have you ever seen another woman who was better than me? Surely you know that nobody cares as deeply for you as I do! And yet, you stand there,
as tall as a star.
Joseph, do not fear my husband. He cannot hurt you. Your slaveholder is little and he squirms under the eyes of ants. He is much too busy nibbling the crumbs which he grovels from the king’s table to notice you taking me. And even if he did, Potiphar’s tense squeak could not submit dust to be disturbed. Do not fear the wrath of your god – you can atone for this secret sin with burnt offerings. But there is no loyalty you owe this god, by whom you have been snarled thickly. He has dragged you down into the sweaty palms of my unbeing husband.
Fear me instead. I tell you, if you do not fill my hungering, then I will make sure that you die. After I say the words, you will have nights of ringing wakefulness. You will try to trace the unaccountable lightness of oblivion, and feel heavily the company of regret. Then you will be burnt alive on a pyre. Time will creep and meet with you in the flames. The jeers from the crowd will undulate and your agony will be relentless.
Please, I ask you again: let us pause and slowly become knotted together.