Like always, Herod’s birthday is today,
and I can hear the tambourine
brioso. I can hear the oboe skirl.
Like always, Salome
is getting down to business, veil by veil.
Her eyes are green;
all other eyes, obscene
ravishers of a writhing girl,
are piercing what is see-through anyway.

Like always, without fail,
something repulsive has been done:
under the Dead Sea sun
another sort of flesh
(that corpse I mean, the headless one)
is summoning the blowflies—fresh
gratification for a mother’s grudge.

Like always, who am I to judge?
Indifferent to whatever moral thing
a servant might be carrying
around the party on a tray,
I stand with stiff voyeurs
devouring those curves of hers,
worshipping the elastic,
the orgastic,

Forgive me: Herod’s birthday is today.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 36 Number 1, on page 30
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