A poem by Paul Tran.

Like Judith Slaying Holofernes

I know better than to leave the house
without my good dress, my good knife


like Excalibur between my stone breasts.
Mother would have me whipped,


would have me kneeling on rice until
I shrilled so loud I rang the church


bells. Didn’t I tell you that elegance is our revenge,
that there are neither victims nor victors

but the bitch we envy in the end? I am that bitch.
I am dogged. I am so damned


not even Death wanted me. He sent me back
after you sacked my body


the way your armies sacked my village, stacked
our headless idols in the river


where our children impaled themselves
on rocks. I exit night and enter your tent


gilded in a bolt of stubborn sunlight. My sleeves
already rolled up. I know they will say


I am a slut for showing this much skin, this
irreverence for what is seen


when I ask to be seen. Look at me now: my thighs
lift from your thighs, my mouth


spits poison into your mouth. You nasty beauty.
I am no beast, but my blade


sliding clean through your thick neck
while my maid keeps your blood off


me and my good dress will be a song
the parish sings for centuries. Tell Mary.


Tell Eve. Tell Salome and David about me.
Watch their faces, like yours, turn green.

First published in Poetry Magazine.