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by Carla Sarett

The Heads of the Kings of Judah, 1793

All the priests were jailed or drowned.
Twisted ropes bound and lowered
the twenty-eight Kings of Judah
from Notre Dame’s portals.
A giant blade. Bloodless. Clean.
Louder than human bone.
The limestone necks were cut.

Tubercular women screamed,
ecstatic, when head after head joined
the filth in the Square.
Starving children kicked
those chunks of Kings.
The crowd danced and sang
of Liberty and Reason.

It turned dark and wet, drunken
men fell on their knees
and begged for Napoleon.

Centuries later, those severed
heads emerge, interred
in a plaster wall. Faces scarred,
noses broken.
Eyes scooped out.

But the crowns remain,
mysteriously, intact.
We cherish fragments of kings.
Fragments of a fragment.
A jawbone. A finger.

Voltaire’s ghost laughs.
These Kings made pyres
of their own children. Still,
we need their eyeless heads.
They remind us how far,
how fast, how stealthily
all of us can fall

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