I’ve always felt I’m someone who
could approach her own beheading with
unvarnished resignation, no sprees of
weeping or remorse; dressed, if I were
lucky, in a murky red gown newly made by
a servant who would miss me; if not,
in a muslin shift worn fine and bleached
by countless afternoons drying on mothy bushes.
I’d acknowledge the crimes I’d committed
without feeling I should have undone them,
proclaim whatever innocence I possessed
and decline a blindfold, preferring to see
the crowd and the scaffold and what was left
of my future billowing out before me until
a man I could only hope was strong raised
a blade I could only hope was sharp and plucked
the thread of my life so fiercely that it spooled
immediately into a startling, stuck tangle, and that
was the end of that. It’s what I’m doing now:
envisioning an end and walking toward it, hoping
it will be an endurable, appreciated death. I admit
I think we all deserve that, despite our collective
likeness to the sweepings of last night’s fire.
But always something precious is burned with
whatever fuel warms us and boils water for
coffee in the morning and soup at night;
always, some beautiful bright trinket
that should have adorned the mantelpiece
dissolves among the coals, its smoke mixed
with the smoke of dead juniper or pine
and carried by the wind’s hocus-pocus to coat
tomorrow’s clouds with darkness and grime.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.