“The most fitting subject for poetry,”
Poe said,
“Would be the death of a beautiful
And it isn’t that he was incorrect—
The deaths
Of beautiful women have inspired count-
Less men:

       Caroline Beaufort
       The Radiant Maiden
              (whom the angels name
       Mina Harker
       Curley’s Wife
       Bambi’s Mom
       Norma Bates
       Gwen Stacy
       Alexandra DeWitt
       Lily Potter
       Jenny Calendar
       Trudy Monk

And women whose murders, rapes, traffickings,
Produce protests, marches, and poetry
Like this.

But did Edgar Allan observe rightly
Do the horrendous deaths of beautiful
Inspire the other half of the world where
That half
Has yet to be let learn to read, in all
Ways worked
To exhaustion without retaining strength
For art,
Or bodygendersex shamed so their own
Is denied them? Their impending deaths no
Move them, inspire action, fire imagi-
The way their fathers and uncles, their brothers,
Their sons—
Chevaliers out of time or causeless
(As if empowering women to decide
Their fates
Were a goal unworthy to quest after);
Redeemed by selflessness (costing just one
Girl’s life
To engender)—would be satisfied in
Their names,
Defying any who claim divine plan,
God’s will
(Hollow words, at best, and terrifying
If true).

Should then the playing field be leveled, scores
Treat uncles, fathers, sons, brothers as mere
Torture, emasculate for narrative
Plot points?
Kill male characters simply for the sake
Of art?
Do unto others—righteously—as done
To them?
Playact as God, if gods are truly cruel,
Or Men?

Or are their hearts less naturally cold?

© 2021, 2024; first appeared in print in Griffel #10, January 2022

© 2024. Recorded 29 March 2024: Open Mike/Poetry Slam sponsored by Mudhook Bar and Kitchen, Duncanville, Texas.

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