Larry Waugh

Holofernes' Head

I could have stopped her.
You think a general of Assyria,
Nebuchadnezzar's man, would sleep so deeply
When the threat of arms to end his life
Snaked about him in the tent,
Caressing his throat like two white serpents?

And though this Judith was beautiful,
Lithe and hungry in her widowhood,
It was not wine or passion overcame me.
Think for one moment--she lived on to
One hundred and five, rich with my goods,
Honored by all, beautiful as the Gardens, and never married.

So says her Book, and her God could speak no falsehood.
I was weary of men and their battles, a desert heart
Parched by the dust of Bethulia and a hundred other towns.
When she came to know me, she knew that truth,
Moving her spirit, who had sought an enemy
And found instead a heart alive with love.

When I opened my eyes to see the blade
I knew I could not harm her, and would not
Lift my hand; it took two strokes to sever us.
She wavered just that much, for I knew the tip
Of that blade, scorpion sharp.  I was already dead;
Head just followed where heart had gladly gone.

Why are you shaking, Judith? sentries queried
As she stumbled back to her people.
Oh, she was famous, and respected,
Rich and honored by the Israelites.
Her life kept on, but till the end of breath, she knew
Who conquered in that tent and who lived on in death.