Bottle

There are two small groups
of sixth formers being taken around the museum.
One group, all girls, perhaps from Channing,
are lectured about the lives of Caesarion and Cleopatra-
‘The one we know as Cleopatra was Cleopatra VII.
She was probably responsible for the deaths of
several family members.’
The other group- mixed- ask questions-
‘I’ve been told to know my set texts,
Which d’you think I should focus on?’

(In a side case is a small
glass bottle. Glass is eggshell thin,
cracked and incomplete.
The bottle’s neck is lopsided and
stained with traces of ancient rose madder.)

Behind thick, healthy glass
is a dress made of beads.
Strung on line after line of netting,
each bead the colour of a beautiful and troubled sea…
Small turquoise breasts…
Shells laced near the base of each beadline.
A story next to it of an ancient king,
Who, bored on a trip by sea, ordered
Twenty women be given nets in place of their clothes.
Then they had to dance…
The shells rattled.

(In a side case is a small
glass bottle. Glass is eggshell thin,
cracked and incomplete.
The bottle’s neck is lopsided and
stained with traces of ancient rose madder.
The glass is opalescent.
A part of the lip hangs perilously,
Catching the light’s intensity.)

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