Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Slaying Holofernes

A Poem

By Jarred Thompson

The occupation lasted months.
While he feasted on fruit, breasts and meat.
At night, he’d stumble down the corridors
drunkenly singing as if protesting defeat.
But he’d won, ravaged and upturned the soil,
thrusting precious metals into rot.

It was a decision taken with the eyes,
two mirrors placed on either side of a violent light.
Arms-length away; forearms knotted into tree trunks.
We softened our eyes. We prayed.
Not to darkness. Not to light.
But to the feeling of blade
separating skin flesh blood bone;
the unexpected jerk into different air.

Poetry was meant to be this way: a holding down, a spraying out,
dripping sheets with forgotten name. Evidence. Of sure hands
overthrowing fists at our throats.