Judith Beheading Holofernes
(After Kehinde Wiley)
No one ever read the Book of Judith to a slave—
recounting how she freed Holofernes of his head
as he lay in a stupor. I watch Wiley’s black Judith’s
defiant gaze, holding a sword after beheading a white
woman, and I think of Angela and the head-severing rage she must
have felt, the rage I’m struggling to put in her mouth.
Although she would’ve had every right, I cannot find
the will to put a sword in her hand like Kehinde
and send her into Pierce’s house to destroy the family,
not even the indentured servants, believing what I believe.
I can’t put an ax in her hand to wield for anything but chopping
wood and making fires. Although she would have every right
to free herself, leaving a wake of bloody muck behind her,
I don’t have it in me to make her a murderer.
I don’t have it in me to put poison in her hand either. Maybe,
I have a mind enslaved—trained to wait on my Lord and Master.
Even after watching another officer execute a brother—
bullet to the back of his skull—a routine stop gone wrong
fills me with rage, but I don’t have it in me to put a sword
in Angela’s hand. I haven’t yet a warrior’s heart.