Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio
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.