After Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii
There was a time when giants ruled the earth
and women were gods, too. But here in this moment
of mortality who, woman, will hold back your heart
from the imminent cliffs of grief? You cry out instead
of speaking, and if you were allowed you’d take the oath
and follow your husband, guard him against the wretched
spell of death like a shadow of black silk unraveling,
like a permanent shadow forged onto the ground
after an atomic blast, your arms outstretched;
in the background a curtain surrenders in the wind.
Beloved woman, twisted with torment
your spinning head cries like a god out of control:
Be brief! Let the weight of your serrated edges
cut this sorrow out of me.
Ruben Quesada is the author of Next Extinct Mammal (2011) and Luis
Cernuda: Exiled from the Throne of Night (2008). He is Poetry Editor
for Cobalt Review, Codex Journal and The Cossack Review. His writing
has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, The
Rumpus, and Superstition Review. He teaches English and creative
writing for the performing arts at Eastern Illinois University.