Marvin Bell
Of Salome: On Death and Beauty

I was not, in the beginning of time, a head on a plate.

I was a foot that wriggle and writhed to escape.

I curled my toes to kick the wall, and I carried the bruise.

I used my instep like the back of my hand.

That was then, in a protected shadow, which remains as it was.


The hand was the hand and the foot was the foot.

Elsewhere, the head and groin were interchangeable.

Tonight, I hold my life in my hands, and my hands are small.

What if I am asked to hand over my life in a week?

Tonight, in a week, a year, an hour—all the same afterward.


My head on a plate, and what will it bring at auction?

Salome like it when I did what she said to.

Otherwise, we had what might be considered a falling out.

The guilt was not helpful and the condition inoperable.

I am tonight a pilgrim in a corridor of moonlight.


I, whose lot is the most one should ask, have learned a lesson.

I think of things formerly too terrible to contemplate.

And tell my friends, the fly and the spider.

The soup tastes like sacrifice.

I have taken in my belt.


I weary of carrying my head in on a plate.

If I were allowed to drink and laugh on the job.

But I have to carry my head in as if it were a set of jewels.

Eyes, of course, teeth, the cheekbones of appearance, the jawbone of discussion.

Others judge me by the resolve with which I continue to speak.

Found In Volume 32, No. 01
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Marvin Bell
About the Author

Marvin Bell is the author of more than sixteen books of poetry, including Mars Being Red (Copper Canyon Press, 2007).  He lives in Iowa City, Iowa; Sag Harbor, New York; and Port Townsend, Washington.