A Novel by Lucy Marx

As I Lay Under His Shadow

(Here Prince Shechem has asked Dinah to join him in the ritual cleansing in the goddess Anat’s waters that must precede the marriages of all Shechemites, and she complies.)

I lay down under his shadow with great delight,
and his fruit was sweet to my tongue

…my head is filled with dew
and my locks with the drops of the night.
— Song of Songs, 2:2; 5:2

But let us now go on.

As Shechem knelt before me and raised his face, and asked, “Will you go with me to Anat’s pool, and let Her waters cleanse us?”

And I dropped my head to signal that I would.

And yes, I still recall him lifting me, his joined hands my step as I climbed up on Hera’s back, and how he held her head, and how he came and mounted her in front.

And so we rode up to the pool where Anat bathed, where Ba’al first saw Her, where all of Shechem’s brides and grooms would come to cleanse themselves before they wed.

And as we went, I prayed, and let myself believe. Yes, let myself give in, because I yearned for it, to what the Shechemites believed. Imagined if I plunged into Her pool on Gerizim as all of Shechem’s sons and daughters did that they might lead a fruitful life and live as one until their death, that I might too be cleansed.

Yes, prayed that I be released from all offense that clung to me from Uncle’s tent—that I might truly rise before Prince Shechem’s eyes as virgin as Anat had risen up before the eyes of Ba’al.

And yes—for now all stories seemed to merge—that we two might reverse the tide of mortal strife, and find the innocence of that first virgin pair, that time of grace before they were exposed to El’s great rage and were expelled into the suffering of mortal life.

Yes, as we rode up the side of Gerizim under the stars of Sin’s great palace, it was as if the map that Shechem drew to lead me to his secret bower now gave way to the map on Shechem’s Sacred stele as it would lead into the untold story of what lay ahead when Shechem’s glory filled the Earth and mortal time itself would be abolished—so full was I of him and all he’d sung that even this I could conceive.

And when we came to where we heard the water spilling into Her pool, though muted now from what it had been in spring, he let me down.

And I found my way to where the trees gave way, and stood looking down into that rocky bowl.

And took my robe and hung it on a tree, and climbed to Anat’s ledge. And through the sheen of glistening drops that veiled the blackness of the water, I prayed to Anat and to my Ishtar on my neck that I should now be cleansed, made pure as She—yes, prayed to both as One—before the prince’s eyes.

And shivered in my nakedness before I jumped, and felt the shock of Her cold waters fold me in, and swam until I rose and saw, where he’d come through the trees and stood above me, his lovely form, his aroused flesh unsheathed and whole as Adam’s and as Abraham’s had been before El’s cruel decree, and his tender pouch of seed beneath, and the sweep of his black hair and heavy brows above the glint of his great searching eyes.

And when he plunged and shouted out how cold it was, and laughed, and held me in his arms as if to warm himself, I didn’t hold back.

And as we scrambled out, I let him take my hand and lead me up the rocks.

And lay beside him on the stone—soft with moss, and moist with spray.

And as he stroked my hair, my face, my breasts, and kissed my lips, I felt the presence of all the Shechemites who’d come before to kiss, and kissing bless their Gods, and so become the vessels of Their longing—cleansed of all that had polluted us on mortal earth.

And yes I felt how all now clung—his heart to mine; his mouth; his breath as it enveloped mine; his seed as it spilled on my belly, cleansing me, as he believed, with Ba’al’s sweet rain. As I lay, blissful, under his shadow.

Speak, Wood; Stone, Whisper

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