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.