Written in Cuneiform

This past weekend was a gift to myself: a women’s retreat in the Texas Hill Country. One of the workshops was an introduction to Soul Collage, a method of using images to gain personal insights and tell one’s story. Our session was too brief for deep soul work, so the leader suggested we select an image and write a story about it. I don’t write fiction; my few attempts have been utter failures. This exercise was a stretch for me, and very satisfying.

How the story was written: first we wrote the back story, whatever has brought our character up to the moment in the picture. Then we glued the picture to our page and wrote what happens next. The point where the picture is inserted is that break point. I honestly had no idea how it was going to turn out until I got to the end. The title refers to the cuneiform writing on the bottom third of the picture, which in my mind tells the story.

Written in Cuneiform

For all his macho appearance—ropy muscles, curly beard, impressive skein of locks, heavy-duty weaponry (see those pocketed knives concealed as snakes? the scepter that could serve as a mace?)—and for all his apparent wealth displayed in his opulent tunic, bracelets on each wrist and upper arm, heavy gold arrow earrings—for all this, he still must appease his queen.

So he’s gone to the river and plucked a bouquet of water lilies, her favorite.

Mouth set firm, eyes bright with hope, he waits outside her chamber to be admitted, and to learn his fate.

Clipping from undated National Geographic

Clipping from undated National Geographic

After an eternal wait, the guard finally stands aside.

The chamber is flooded with morning sun; he is momentarily blinded as he hears her cool voice: “Well, you’ve come. What have you brought me?”

As his eyes adjust, he approaches the silken couch on which she lies, kneels and hands her the flowers.

Regarding them for a long moment, she finally takes them, asking, “And where did you get these?” as she hands them to a nearby servant, nodding toward a tall brass vase awaiting the gift.

“From the sacred river, my queen. They are, I believe, your favorite.”

“Indeed,” she says, smiling for the first time and patting the cushions beside her. “Sit down.”

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