Judith and Holofernes

oil on linen, 120” x 90” by Kehinde Wiley, 2012

in the frame stood all that could be done.
a dash of blood on a long and ready blade.
a justice this particular day made late. one
head without a body, hanging from the other
body. a sign to be read, not spoken. a wish
to be wished and not had. the problem is
it’s already done and up on the wall and
although it is there, happened and recorded
its broken chronology won’t be mentioned.

I am stuck in the contrast of garden and
grave. all bloom all wither all pattern and its
sore disruption. every aunt I have known
nails set to a dazzle wears the sweet remix
of Judith. blushed to balance out the gore.
the chain-linked wallpaper stares back at
what seemed to be the only feeling left.
a lie stuffed under our beds for our good.
who’s the poor tyrant in our own Bethulia?
who’s lured us into this hunting, spooked
us into such a calamitous marriage?

Copyright © 2020 by A. H. Jerriod Avant. Originally published with the Shelter in Poems initiative on poets.org.