On Viewing Artemisia Gentileschi’s
Judith Beheading Holofernes at the Uffizi

by Kenneth R. Morefield


Strong is the hand that holds the sword.
The only thing gentle here is your name.
Prissy hands of prissy women hang in places of honor,
While here the forearms have muscle to saw and tear,
And blood that splatters stupidly over the only bosom
That heaves in effort, not ecstasy.
This is a woman’s painting,
And what beauty there is comes from the inner resolve
To achieve the impossible
By being who you are.

Nearby, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus tempts you
With what men say you should be.
Across town lies Michelangelo’s Hebraic victory,
A David so serenely self assured,
He scarcely seems to need the applause
He so greedily soaks in.  

And here you stay,
Ceaselessly straining,
Sawing with your sword.
Eyes that have not cried enough.
Sorrow is the salt that preserves your beauty,
Too much of it would spoil the effect,
Without any, we would forget,
The awful human cost
Of every woman’s triumph.

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