Still Life With Holofernes


     “The dead looked dead, the living looked alive.”


Blood on the terrace lost
           to its body, body elsewhere
           lost but only seven percent or so
the first thought came. Left
           the scene in hopes to catch a breath
           of ice smog between draws
for bargain price, to virtue, the label
           lay its claim. Across whose thresh
           hold and at what hour can I,
in the unseeing, see? In shades of pre
           dawn but post-slumber to which
           I was not privy. Blood on the terrace
where, like every name told me over
           the night, passed as though wax
           sealed, the I becomes irrelevant
to the gestures it makes. Just nod to look
I swore I would
           but on a choke chain necklace
kept my pride, matched the dress
           formal enough for cocktail attire.
           All floor gaze in dog tag
Adornment, fatigue motif hinted
           in the shift. No shit I couldn’t
           engage the civilians, could only
see myself in name brand spec
           reflections. Couldn’t but trace
           the flight of translucent globes
in miniature from champagne flutes
           to become nothing-- or what
           there was worth toasting. Room
packed, conquest quarantined within. Gun
           blank expression proved too self
           -involved to shoot off song titles
some face claimed played across
           our shared presence at a past time.
           I didn’t ask to be this way. Left the scene,
standing how many erect necks now
           above the bustle? Above how many
           apartments that I could, for a lark,
occupy by the hour and water
           -mark with blood as my own? Still
           life goes on on the first terrace
I step to out of this long night, brim
           -stone hearth-sat sulking. I wish I had
           a robe. A butcher’s knife, a torn out
canto, a Caravaggio: shrapnel
           motifs I paint in memory of what occurs
           in the here-now on a stranger’s porch
frame in sliding door relief. I touch
           my coat and the touch dries rough
           as impasto on print. The loss
my own, or not, I can’t tell. When
           I swallow where my neck would be,
           it not so much as ripples air.
A nosebleed, a severed head, a hang
           -over. What difference could it make
           to look down in blackout?
My jeweled hand, I call her Judith.
           On this high terrace, this once
           neckline, Holofernes. Suicide
of the social follows the body at war
           with mind. None can sever the light
           from the light-headed only shouldered.




Ellen Boyette is an MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she is a Teaching-Writing Fellow and an editorial assistant for The Iowa Review. Her work appears at LEVELER,, Tagvverk, and Flag + Void.