The Baptist’s beheaded Arab fashion:
Throat slit with the long sword, then the gristly
Tendons of the neck severed with the knife
Still sheathed behind this executioner’s
Back—the beheading’s not quite over yet,
Like the tape loop broadcast on cnn:
Al-Qaeda zealots crisscrossed with bullets
Posing with the blindfolded journalist
Before the anonymous assassin
Steps forward to undertake his righteous
Labor. On websites the tape winds forward
To the crass, theatrical brandishing
Of the skull, another obscene gesture
In a war targeted toward spectacle.
Two prisoners gape from their somber cell.
The girl servant grips the copper platter
Upon which the head will be presented
To Salomè. Blood puddles the stone floor
Where, aswirl, it twists into the artist’s
Only surviving signature, Michel,
To confess his helpless complicity.
Michael Waters is the author of eight books of poetry, including Darling Vulgarity, Parthenopi: New and Selected Poems, Bountiful, The Burden Lifters, and Anniversary of the Air. His several edited volumes include Contemporary American Poetry, published by Houghton Mifflin in 2006, and Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing from Homer to Ali, published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2003. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetry, The Yale Review, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, The American Poetry Review, and Rolling Stone. He teaches at Monmouth University and in the Drew University MFA program.