My name has become
synonymous with “whore.”
A word spat from the side of the mouth
for a woman with no pride,
and no breeding.
It has been forgotten
that I was a queen and that
I only ever knew my husband

No, what I was guilty of
was idolatry; I built shrines
to those unworthy of worship, and prayed
upon altars gilded with promises
fallen from the velvet tongues
of priests. Haven’t we all fallen
into that trap? How often have you knelt
to those who did no kneeling?

In my heart I swallowed the lies.
My only crime was belief. My gods
were too near and I loved them
too deeply. It’s for this I was branded
and for this I was condemned;
torn to pieces by dogs for loyalty.

Before my accusers came,
I met myself in the mirror;
lined my eyes with kohl,
reddened my lips with carmine—
all the better to show my teeth.
I dressed my hair in jewels and bells.
I donned loveliness like armor,
and went to meet my death.

For this, I was called wanton;
for this, I paid the price in
infamy. Heaven forbid a woman
learn to wield her body like a weapon.
heaven forbid she find her strength
in beauty.

I stood in the window
with the prophet glaring up at me.
They say the fire on his tongue
compelled my servants’ grappling
and I fell to my death.
That is a lie; I leapt. Even that
they could not take from me.

-Joie Martin, “Jezebel”

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