in the Gallery: John the Baptist

Deborah Beach Giordano
© January 26, 2013

There is John the Baptist
or his head, to be more precise –
on a platter.
And I wonder …
Did they
reuse that dish
to serve
other meals?Salome.w.t.headofJtB.BernardinoLUINI.c1500.wikimedia

And what happened
to his head?

Did Herod
return it
to John’s disciples,
or keep it on a shelf;
a trophy –
and a warning
to would-be
critics?

Did he gaze at it
smugly –
or struggle
to avoid its hollow stare,
did he gloat
over his victim,
or weep in despair
at the loss
of a voice
that thundered
with honesty?

Did he rejoice
in his power,
regret his haste,
or sigh in relief –
sorry only
that he hadn’t acted
sooner
to rid himself
of the meddlesome prophet?

Or was it all
for nothing,
his great kingly decree?
Was that head
truly still,
or did its lips
still speak
truth
in the silence
far louder than before,
its pronouncements
flowing forth
in a neverending stream?

Did Herod answer,
debate or argue?
Did he cover his ears,
shout with rage,
overturn tables
and tear at his clothes,
the voice pursuing him
ceaselessly
down the dark
marbled hallways
across the sunlit courtyards,
inside the thick curtains
above his bed….

There was no escape,
he dare not burn it,
for the ashes would arise
aloft upon the winds
and be carried
throughout the empire;
if it were buried,
the blood would surely
cry out from the ground,
its demand for justice
spreading over the earth
growing like a weed.

In desperate panic
did he fall to his knees,
in his madness
did he come to his senses,
and bow
to the greater power,
begging
that he be shown
some mercy,
pleading
for release?

Perhaps the death
of John the baptist
was the beginning;
when king Herod
became a haunted man,
endlessly pursued
by the thief in the mirror
who had stolen his conscience
and robbed him
of his peace of mind.

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About inklingscommunity

I am a struggling Christian, committed pacifist, near-obsessive recycler, incurable animal lover, inveterate tree-hugger; a nature mystic, a socialized introvert, an advocate for the vulnerable, an opponent of exploiters.
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