Salome’s Soliloquy

John the Baptist rebuked Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee,
for an incestuous and adulterous union with his
brother’s wife, Herodias. Herodias therefore wished to
kill John, and found an opportunity when her daughter
Salome performed a lascivious dance at Herod’s
birthday feast. Herod swore to give the girl anything up
to half his kingdom, and Herodias told Salome to ask
for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. The
execution was carried out, and John’s head presented
to Salome.

My fingers pulse and throb to stroke his head—
A sick attraction. I don’t love him dead,
One man who’s less than God yet more than good,
And I? A wench cut off from womanhood.

Vile Herod sniggers like he’s bought me while
My mother (not his wife) aches to defile
The cherished head of John now held by me
In agony. O wretched blasphemy
Of seven veils danced off to satisfy
Deranged delusions unattainable!
I listened to these lechers grunt and cry;
I saw them stimulate unrisen dough
For nothing but my sultry picture show.

I know this court. It has no heart, but pants
For woman, demon, girl, beast, man or boy,
And soon frustrated, needs another toy.
In fantasy the fools believe they own me;
I swirl away, and none has ever known me.

A marriage? Only John knew what it meant:
A man and woman joined by free consent.
Love’s not for sale, but spends the sum of life
In giving self to one so much unlike
And complementary as he and I,
His courage resolute, my charm alluring.
These others were perverted while maturing;
They ban and butcher innocence; their law
Divorces man from wife for any flaw.
They’d have me as a plaything, tool, and slave,
Expose my child to die for taunts I gave
Unnatural, guilt-ridden will and pleasure
Enshrined as human law and custom’s measure.
John prophesied: his awe-inspiring lips
Foretelling rightful love’s apocalypse
To me, but Mother could manipulate
Her child and partner lewd to castrate fate.
She’s severed every hope, left me no grace
To live for in this sex-polluted place.


apocalypse: unveiling or revelation



Margaret Coats lives in California.  She holds a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University.  She has retired from a career of teaching literature, languages, and writing that included considerable work in homeschooling for her own family and others. 

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38 Responses

  1. Roy Eugene Peterson

    What a unique perspective on what might have gone through the mind of Salome, but what a great indictment on the regime of Herod! If words could make a savory stew, yours would win first prize for eloquence and erudite presentation.

    • Margaret Coats

      Thank you, Roy! I admire your triple entendre of a savory stew (cooked dish of varied depravities and vexations). And this is the first time I have garnished any of my erudite eloquence with “sniggers”!

  2. jd

    A very interesting perspective, Margaret, and artfully conveyed. I have difficulty reconciling the mind and the act though. I can live with displaced and perverted lust but to believe in God and true marriage and act as she did? Of course one never knows what’s truly in another’s mind. All the more reason not to judge, as I have just done.
    She does look sad (regretful?) in the graphic

    • Margaret Coats

      Thanks so much for your comment, jd. About reconciling mind and act, the context here makes that impossible for several reasons. This is a soliloquy (something spoken with no plan for others to hear) in the full emotional heat of having helped cause the death of a person the speaker admires. We cannot regard this as her considered view about anything. She mentions God, but so do many who have vague ideas about Him. Salome is concerned with John, a reputed man of God, whose views on marriage were clearly contrary to those of the court that was her home. In the wake of his death, which happens as a later result of his stridently expressed views on marriage, she perversely fantasizes marital connection between him and herself. Her words just happen to be the truth about marriage, but for Salome to say them, we need only imagine that she understands the concepts of consent, self-giving, and complementarity of the sexes. The last is understood by most human beings. Women in ancient times did not choose their husbands; they and any necessary consent were given by fathers or persons standing in the place of fathers. Salome, however, belonged to a family in which a very few scandalous women had made life choices. It was not unthinkable. And others knew what it was to choose a sexual partner contrary to social norms (Potiphar’s wife who wanted but did not get the consent of Joseph to adultery). Still, there’s Salome’s context. The man she wants is dead. I present her as regretting her part in his death. That could be true. It wasn’t her idea. Your question, I’m sure, is why she would ask for John’s head if she didn’t want him dead. My last four lines blame her manipulative mother, and can be taken to suggest that Herodias abused her daughter. The “partner lewd” could be Herod, who is necessary in causing John’s death. But the “child and partner lewd” could be Salome working with her mother to impel Herod to the deed. That goes along with Salome’s perceived victim status in line 4 and in the last 2 lines of the poem, where she could be expressing suicidal ideas. She comes from a depraved environment, and it is ridiculous to imagine her preaching what John preached–or even more, what Jesus would soon say about lifelong indissoluble marriage. Nevertheless, these are true goods that a self-interested woman might want in her own idealized emotional fantasies.

  3. Phil L. Flott

    What a delight that here we can speak our mind about God and truth.
    What a powerful way to delineate all the things that go along with perverted sex. Excellent work, Margaret.

    • Margaret Coats

      Thank you, Phil. You undoubtedly know more about all the things in the poem than anyone. They say a priest who has heard confessions for a single year has heard it all, and you may still be hearing and counseling after retirement. Best wishes to you and your penitents in this world so similar in its vices to the times before Jesus came.

  4. Jeremiah Johnson

    I like how you hint in the first stanza at the tradition that Salome had a thing for John the Baptist, call it “unrequited love”, and felt vindictive towards him. At the risk of being presumptuous, here’s a poem that I wrote back a decade or so ago on the same story/themes:

    Oscar Wilde’s Blunder

    Oscar Wilde’s play, “Salome” ‘s
    A tale of unrequited loves
    And feminine vengeances,

    In which Herodias is in love
    With her brother-in-law, Herod, who’s in love
    With her daughter, Salome (with whom a manservant’s also in love),
    Who is, in turn, in love
    With John the Baptist, who is in love
    With his own chastity.

    So that the manservant kills himself for love,
    While the women conspire to blackmail Herod
    So that he kills John
    (who is Herod’s favorite prisoner),

    Because Herodias is mad at Herod for not loving her,
    And at John for not minding his own business,
    And because Salome is mad at John
    Over his not being mad over her.

    A tale of sordid loves thwarted,
    And of bitter disappointment
    In which no one comes out ahead . . .

    But for Oscar Wilde’s blunder,
    That which he overlooks,
    Which is that John also has a lover
    Who is the man, Jesus, who doesn’t figure in Wilde’s tale,
    But whom John calls the “other”
    Who’s sandal he’s unworthy to untie.

    So that John’s the one lover
    In this story (though his love’s spiritual, not carnal),
    Who’s love’s not thwarted,
    But’s requited, as he goes ahead to hold the door
    For the bridegroom, who’ll be arriving shortly.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      It’s inevitable that Margaret’s poem should evoke thoughts of Oscar Wilde’s one-act play “Salome” (the one in which Sarah Bernhardt insisted on performing, and for which Aubrey Beardsley produced those utterly magnificent drawings).

      The poem is expertly crafted, and compelling. But along with jd, I find it hard to reconcile the somewhat moralistic and censorious Salome of this poem with the languorous seductress of the Herodian court. Would the real Princess Salome call the court “this sex-polluted place,” or would she share the opinion that her mother was not validly married to the Tetrarch? This Salome sounds very much like an angry feminist with an anti-sex obsession.

      Of course, the poet has the right to conjure up a character in any manner, since the poem is a fictive artifact. And certainly Oscar Wilde did the same thing when writing his play.

    • Margaret Coats

      Joe, thanks for finding the poem expertly crafted and compelling. No, my Salome is not the “languorous seductress” of decadent art. We have a Seven Veils cafe over on Sunset Boulevard where you might be able to find that. The historical Salome was young and graceful, and interpreters go from that and an imperfect knowledge of the family situation where she is dominated by her mother. There was a father in the background, and children in her unenviable environment may very strongly wish their parents back together, all the more when they experience abuse in new circumstances. But that’s not the only reason she might not believe her mother was Herod’s wife. John said so! This poem shows her with a palpably tingling attraction to him, one she denies at first and keeps coming back to. She liked listening to him far more than Herod did. Yes, her admiration of him could cause her to scorn the Herodian court. Young women with love fantasies do that kind of thing. She’s not censorious, but contemptuous of men she doesn’t desire. Confused too, but not moralistic. She sees plenty of perversion and has an impossible dream. She blames her mother for making it that way, but is neither angry at men per se nor anti-sex. “Rightful love” is still under a veil, and she considers her allure under it, despite all she’s done as temptress. Joe, I think you’ve not been as sensitive to her as you could have been.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Well, as I said, the poet has license to create whatever character and personality he or she chooses, and to deviate from such historical facts as are known about the real person who was a model for that character. And even if the deviations are very wide, this may have no effect at all on the poem’s aesthetic success.

        All I can say is that Salome was a Princess of a wealthy royal house, and she was a thoroughly Hellenized Jewess whose religion was an accident of birth, and to which she likely paid nothing but a pro forma respect (as was probably the case with all the Hellenized Herodians). Is it plausible that she would pay any attention to a lower-class and unwashed ascetic preacher-prophet who was constantly insulting her mom? And if she were indeed alienated from her mother, why would she agree to please her by causing the man’s death?

        Also, you have Salome say this:

        A marriage? Only John knew what it meant:
        A man and woman joined by free consent.

        This, in my opinion, is highly anachronistic. No one connected with a royal dynasty that regularly used arranged marriages as a political tool could have conceived of such a thing. It’s only in the twentieth century that princesses and other royals began to think that they had to be “in love” to marry.

        Still, I think your poem is expertly crafted and compelling.

      • Margaret Coats

        Thank you again, Joe, for commending the artistry of the poem. I have given an answer to jd that covers some of your objections, but here are more addressed specifically to historical considerations. The prime example at the time of a woman choosing a man for herself, and the two being joined by mutual consent, is Herodias and Herod. Not in accord with the way things were done, but as usual rulers could act contrary to marital mores with a woman of their class. Josephus makes a big fuss of some other woman who gave her husband a bill of divorce. His point is that in Mosaic law, the husband could do so, but not the wife. I cannot locate the story, but it may concern Mariamne, daughter of Herod Agrippa, who abandoned marriage arranged by her father and enacted by her brother, in favor of some other man who was a ruler of sorts (she would have needed protection). This takes place a little later than Salome, but in the same milieu and era. For a love story on the Greek side, try Alexander and Roxana. Yes, the world conqueror who could do as he liked fell in love with an exotic barbarian, and the story implies real love on her part as well. Despite disapproval of some civil and military staff, it lasted for all of Alexander’s short life, and Roxana made use of her position as widow and mother back in Greece itself.

        About the unattractiveness of that unwashed Jew named John, you forgot why he was in Herod’s prison. Not because he had criticized the morals of Herod and consort, but because Herod feared his influence with the people. John was a YouTube star, a podcaster with thousands of subscribers, an INFLUENCER, a man with media power. And he got it from an ascetic lifestyle and obedience to the mission God gave him. You can’t believe Salome could have been attracted by his goodness as I imagine, but believe she might have been drawn by the perceived good of his power.

        Pay attention to context, which you ordinarily do. I am not giving imagined words about marriage to a princess planning her life. She is not pontificating about how she will change the world when she has the power. In the most profound emotional confusion, she’s fantasizing about what was never possible, holding the severed head of the fantasy partner, and saying she finds nothing left to live for. Her extreme words are nonetheless thinkable, as I’ve shown from some extreme cases in her milieu. They don’t have to correspond to the ways of the world in her time.

      • Margaret Coats

        It was Salome, sister of Herod the Great, who gave her husband a bill of divorce, and earned the criticism of Josephus for it. She is earlier than the Salome of this poem.

    • Margaret Coats

      Jeremiah, thank you very much for posting your poem here. You are right about what happens next. Jesus the Bridegroom of the Church offers boundless spiritual love to all who accept Him, and He changes the world in regard to fleshly love. He restores marriage, elevates woman, and redeems the child. John the Baptist was His precursor in denouncing the so-called marriage of Herod to Herodias; John knew and surely loved Jesus. My Salome tells what a smart and sassy stripteaser could see in her world just before Jesus appeared. I see not only the sexual attraction she feels for John, but love for him based on her recognition of good in him. Good is attractive to young persons who know only evil, though they are usually weak and confused in their response. I don’t present Salome as vindictive because of unrequited love, but sorry that her dancing resulted in John’s death. She blames it on Herodias, and feels herself a victim along with John. The story as we have it suggests that Salome was not an a priori accomplice to murder. She perceives that John foresaw a better future for love than what she saw around her.

  5. R M Moore

    Thank you Margaret. Your poem has brought forward some interesting thoughts from the others.

    • Margaret Coats

      As you were the first reader of this poem before it was submitted for publication, may I say what you thought might happen when it appeared?

  6. Paul A. Freeman

    I do like Bible stories retold in a more dramatic, relatable way, and you haven’t let us down, Margaret.

    My fave couplet:
    “In fantasy the fools believe they own me;
    I swirl away, and none has ever known me.”
    So much is told and understood in those two lines.

    Thanks for the read.

    • Margaret Coats

      Thank you, Paul, because you identify a special theme in this poem, namely, fantasy as a perversion inimical to true love and satisfactory relations between the sexes. To put it simply, fantasies block the real response of one person to another. They lock the fantasizer into an unreal self-erotic mental construct. That is why Salome scorns those watching her dance with undue pleasure, and it applies in a different, sadder way to herself in her fruitless fantasy about John. Fantasy may be the least damning of perversions mentioned here, but when we consider personal and social harm done, it isn’t small. I really didn’t think anyone reading the poem would notice this, so you have my respect for doing so.

  7. Brian A. Yapko

    Margaret, this is a fascinating and effective dramatic monologue which offers possible insights into the much-maligned character of Salome but – more to the point – offers decisive views on the sanctity of marriage. That marriage is the overwhelming subject of this poem is made structurally clear by the division of couplets into varying length stanzas, with the “marriage” stanza encompassing more than 50% of the poem. You do an interesting thing: you break the pattern of couplets with the 3rd through 5th lines of the marriage stanza as if to put these lines under a yellow highlighter. It’s quite effective. You do it in a few other places as well – you intentionally break the rhythm of the couplets (which might otherwise become rather sing-songy) to clarify a point. Your point regarding the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman comes across loud and clear as does the sin of regarding this sacred union as a convenience rather than a commitment.

    This poem is quite a change of pace for you since I don’t recall you writing dramatic monologues before and what is particularly surprising is your choice of speaker, who we automatically think of as depraved but whom you present with true compassion and rue. When we understand that the poem is quite literally about the ideal of what marriage should be and the theology behind it, it is more understandable as to why you chose a speaker who personally knew and was touched by John the Baptist. Salome is the vehicle through which you impart an important Biblical message. An ironic vehicle, since Salome is a most-unexpected authority on sexual morality! And yet what type of poem might the adulteress who Christ rescues have written?

    I know so little about the historical Salome other than her being stereotyped as the usual debauched villainess dancing the dance of the seven veils. The idea that she could have the feelings and thought patterns detailed here is indeed surprising but also enlightening and strangely encouraging. As St. Augustine famously said, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” But you do characterize against type. It would be a bit like hearing spiritual good news from Judas or Delilah.

    For myself, when I think of Salome, I don’t think of Oscar Wilde so much as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard ironically trying to pitch a film about Salome, the murderous narcissist., to Cecil B. DeMille. It is therefore amazing to me that you can imagine her (or reimagine her) as someone who is young, confused, repulsed by the Herodian Court, articulate (albeit inarticulately drawn to John the Baptist) and who may yet have a soul worth saving. Along with “sanctity of marriage” “a soul worth saving” may be the key here. A worthy sequel to this poem would be to revisit Salome as an elderly woman so that we could see what has become of her. I don’t think the Bible ever mentions her again.

    • Margaret Coats

      Brian, thank you for your generosity in spending time and thought and effort to discuss so much about the poem. As usual, you give special attention to the form; I appreciate your pointing to the three “highlighted” lines that rhyme imperfectly, all with the long vowel “i” in three important words: “life” and “unlike” and “I.” Going beyond marriage as defined in the previous line, Salome tells what she wants of love. It’s imperative to begin with “Love’s not for sale,” because she’s just experienced an obvious attempt by Herod to buy her person. A ruler doesn’t offer half his kingdom as a reward for birthday party entertainment–and I am surprised how often I see that euphemism. She wants love to be lasting (who isn’t disappointed when it ends?). She considers it exists between two who are unlike and complementary. She and John have complementary feminine charm and masculine courage. This satisfies her marriage fantasy–which is a fantasy because it’s one of those “delusions unattainable” in her situation. Good ideas, though, and she gets them from John. She goes on to speak of him as the prophet of “rightful love,” and again she’s correct, because he is the precursor of Jesus. I’ve suggested in some answers above that Salome’s ideas about love and marriage are natural to human beings. See how Jesus says the same! When He says the Mosaic provision for divorce is wrong, He gives the story of man’s creation as authority. Can you imagine how angry doctors of the Law must have been to be referred back to the introduction of their Law book by a carpenter’s son?

      The poem is about marriage, but I’m glad you bring up, Brian, the consideration of Salome as a soul. She’s complicit in John’s death, and at this moment so interesting to art, she must have had very strong feelings. Fallen nature is retrievable; from the story simply told, Salome is still developing. She has to ask her mother what to do. That bit of childishness suggested treating her as a young woman, with a young woman’s natural desires, though susceptible to evil influences. The Bible does not mention her again, but there are other sources (especially Josephus). She was married twice. Thanks, too, for your sequel suggestion!

  8. Patrick Murtha

    This is an interesting take on Salome, who, according to Flavius Josephus, was the cause of many murders and exiles. If Josephus speaks true, her history is saturated with sedition, intrigue, blood, and seduction. Her cruelty and her cunning, even against her own mother, was not out of virtue or some contempt for her having left her husband for Herod. With the vileness of her viper history, perhaps a poem might be penned that shows her spawning new plots by these crimes she mentions.

    • Margaret Coats

      Patrick, thank you very much for reading and commenting and suggesting another look at the vileness of a woman or women in the Herodian dynasty. I think you are speaking of someone other than the Salome of my poem, because there are others named Salome in that family, and Josephus has much more to say of the Salome who was a sister of Herod the Great. That Herod was the one we know in the Christmas story. And when you speak of a woman who left her husband for Herod, that could be the Herodias who is mother of the Salome of this poem. But there were many Herods and several Salomes in the dynasty. I will agree with you that their history is saturated with sedition, intrigue, blood, and seduction. The Salome of this poem, identified as Salome daughter of Herodias, earned her place with her major portion of guilt in the death of John the Baptist. Afterwards Josephus simply says she was married twice, and the first husband died before she married the second. That might be a quiet end to her story. Thanks again for your suggestion!

      • Patrick Murtha


        Ah, yes! Silly me, I did not follow Josephus’ time-line as I ought. This is my blunder. While I yield to your correct history, I still struggle to attach any virtue to a girl whose name is synonymous with seduction by dance and the death of John the Baptist. Herodias’s daughter and Potiphar’s wife: the nameless vicious ones of Scripture. Anyhow, I will end my comment there lest I find that my foot can fit even farther in my mouth.

      • Margaret Coats

        Patrick, your original comment remains important not only about the historical milieu, but in direct relation to this poem. I’m sorry to have made you think it was not valued.
        There’s no virtue to attribute to Salome here, unless we count her regret for the death of John, which she does admit was due to her “seduction by dance” as you perceptively call it. Her reason for regret is that she saw good in him–but that perception of hers did not affect her action. She goes on to list all the perverted vices around her, and there’s no one better to identify them, even if she does not participate in all. No credit to an evildoer who scorns and blames other evildoers!

      • Patrick Murtha


        No worries! Your correction was well taken, and gave me an opportunity to showcase my own humility or the dearth of it.

  9. Monika Cooper

    John certainly knew what marriage meant, friend of the Bridegroom and son of Zachariah and Elizabeth that he was.

    “None has ever known me.” So is she a virgin after all then? But who is her child that “they” want to expose? I don’t know Salome’s myth very well.

    “Rightful love’s apocalypse” is contrasted with the dance of the seven veils. She imagines a marriage between herself and the prophet whose head she holds but seems powerless to protect from Herodias’s designs. Meanwhile, his disciples must be taking John’s body away. . .

    Buying and selling relics is simony but Salome bought John’s head off his shoulders with her dance, and the soldiers at the foot of the Cross won the Bridegroom’s garments with lots. And in the context of the poem the relic prepares the way for grace in her life anyway; she, like them, on some level, knew not what she was doing.

    It is a fresh vision of a seemingly used-up figure you give us here: of the wild possibilities for redemption from the sickest situations.

    • Margaret Coats

      Thanks, Monika, for reading and thinking about the poem. I like your reflections! I use “know” several times, with carnal knowledge as an underlying meaning, but when Salome says “none has ever known me,” it follows her thought about party guests who think they own her while fantasizing during her dance. None of them has ever known her in reality (and about fantasy, see what I said above to Paul Freeman). No decision on whether she’s still virginal. When she says “I know this court,” she doesn’t mean she’s practiced all the perversions she goes on to list, as she seems to consider the full array of them disgusting and unsatisfying. Why be with guys who get frustrated easily and are always looking for something new?

      When she talks about how they would expose her child to die, that’s part of a conditional sentence beginning “They’d have me as a plaything, tool, and slave . . .” It’s not her reality yet, and is not what she wants in marriage, but it is a fair description of how women were treated before Jesus Christ restored marriage, elevated women, and redeemed children. A husband had the right to expose his wife’s unwanted child to die–or as happened in cities, to be eaten by dogs.

      Your comment about relics is most interesting. John’s head was a first-class relic, and may well have been an instrument of actual grace to Salome. Mercy can come through the sickest situations, as she calls her wish to stroke the head affectionately!

      • Monika Cooper

        I agree, Margaret! For all its virtues, Greco-Roman patriarchy was a hard system. Christ’s conquest was the best thing that ever happened to women and children.

  10. Shamik Banerjee

    Dear Margaret, I started familiarising myself with the Bible last year, and truly, I found this event to be among the most horrific ones. Even slightly imagining the severed head of John sends me chills. The poem beautifully describes the tale. Could you please explain the meaning behind ‘seven veils’? Thank you for this wonderful craft.

    • Margaret Coats

      Thank you, Shamik, for your appreciation. The seven veils are not a Biblical or historical element of Salome’s story. But the “dance of the seven veils” has become a popular image for complete disrobing she is rumored to have done. It derives from Oscar Wilde’s play about Salome, and he may have taken it from 1890s French pornography. I use it to suggest indecent exposure that she regrets, because it leads to John’s death that was her mother’s desire, not her own.

  11. James A. Tweedie

    There was a marvelous little book published years ago with the title, “Jesus, According to a Woman” (by Rachel Conrad Wahlberg) that addressed the radical way (for his day) that Jesus interacted with women and the joy and liberation that they most assuredly experienced as a result.

    In the case of Salome, Margaret has reinvented her as a victim of abuse within the socially and morally corrupt Herodian court. In this sense, the new Salome is, as Joseph says, a very 21st century construct. This is not to say that Salome could not have entertained the thoughts that Margaret has created for her but, even though I find it historically unlikely, it is not a bad thing to rethink biblical women in ways that give credit to their full, multi-dimensional humanity.

    Even if Salome was (or became) the immoral, corrupt and corrupting, manipulative villainess as per Josephus’ account, the presence of some measure of genuine love, goodness and righteousness in her life need not be precluded as a result. We are all fallen to ground zero where our righteousness is as filthy rags, but there are those who rebel against it and yearn for something more, even to a yearning and aspiration for the kingdom of God. Could Salome have been such a one? Could she have become a follower of Jesus? As the angel said to Mary, “With God, nothing will be impossible.”

    Thank you, Margaret, for your powerful poem, and for giving us the glimpse of a possible hint of redemption in the heart of this otherwise tragic life.

    • Margaret Coats

      James, thank you for finding the poem powerful–and necessary as a re-thinking of a Biblical woman. I discovered this myself when looking up for Shamik Banerjee the origin of the seven veils. Not only are the veils a 19th century construct now closely associated with Salome, but in France this woman has come to be viewed as female lust incarnate. If only for that reason, I am glad to offer a view that may be new. But maybe not. I have now heard of, but not found, a writing of the pseudepigrapha that speaks of a converted Salome. Even if this comes from the 6th or 7th century, it would be an old “new” Salome. I think Joseph Salemi referred especially to the view of marriage my Salome espouses. As I’ve said to Brian Yapko, Jesus Himself refers to His “new” view of marriage as the original one intended by God in the creation of human beings. The psychological perspective that can consider the young Salome a victim of her environment is a modern viewpoint, but one based on more thorough understanding of human nature. It is not a whining attitude of entitlement rejecting responsibility. Thanks, too, for telling me of the book by Rachel Conrad Wahlberg. I’ll bet she likes the Gospel of Luke, which I’ve heard called the Gospel of women.

  12. David Whippman

    A new and clever take on this story. Salome is usually painted as a villain, though maybe a pawn of Herodias. Here, as James says, she is a victim of the same depravity that killed John the Baptist. But even if we accept that she was bad, it’s possible to do evil and still, in one’s own mind, espouse good. You can call it cognitive dissonance, I suppose; or, to borrow Orwell’s term, doublethink.

    • Margaret Coats

      Doublethink is the word for it, David. Quite different from calling evil good, or doing evil that good may come of it. And doublethink seems to have degrees. Salome in this poem understands her depraved environment, but longs to distance herself even as her own act further closes her in. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!

      • David Whippman

        You’re welcome, Margaret, it was a good and thought-provoking piece.

  13. Alena Casey

    Margaret, this may be my favorite type of narrative device, one which takes a familiar story (especially Biblical) and lets us see it from new eyes. I think that imagining what Biblical figures may have thought or done “offscreen” is a valuable and edifying practice. Your poem is well crafted, and I’ve quite enjoyed the comments.

    • Margaret Coats

      Thanks, Alena! A soliloquy is indeed “offscreen,” spoken only for those who will hear it by reading a poem or viewing a drama. Knowing that John the Baptist spoke against incest and adultery, it’s easy to imagine Salome, who performs a pornographic “moving picture show,” thinking of other offenses against marriage. Prostitution, divorce, self-eroticism, fornication, pedophilia, homosexual practice, bestiality, satanism, the objectification and degradation of women and children, castration, denial of innocence, forced loveless marriage. She’s no prophet, but an observer of debauchery can, by contrast, speak out for “rightful love” and healthy sex. I thank you especially for reading through the comments that are now lengthy, gradually clarifying the “new” picture of Salome while taking into consideration her history in the Bible and artistic tradition.

  14. Shaun C. Duncan

    I had myself planned to write dramatic monologue from Salome’s perspective so I find it a little difficult to remark on the substance of your work here without my own ideas getting in the way. Obviously I think it’s an excellent topic for a poem (and I’m glad you do too!) and I must say that using her situation as a means to comment on sexuality and marriage is quite brilliant and gives what might appear to be a minor vignette from scripture a sense of urgency and relevance to the modern reader. Was it Josephus who claimed she died whilst fleeing the sacking of Jerusalem by falling through the surface of a frozen lake so that when the water refroze it decapitated her? Such a tragic irony would appear to sit well with your poem.

    Of course, as one would expect of your work, the execution is masterful. The irregularity of stanza length allows the soliloquy to follow its own rhetorical shape, which is pleasing in itself and there are some fine turns of phrase like “less than God yet more than good” which sparkle throughout. As always, I am in awe of your work.

    • Margaret Coats

      Shaun, thank you very much for your appreciation of my work. I hope you will go on at some point to produce your own Salome poem. As James Tweedie says, it is worth having alternate perspectives on Biblical persons. Your tendency to study the inner psychology of speakers or topical figures can only add to comprehension of Salome as she might have been.

      The story you mention, of Salome being decapitated by ice in a frozen lake, is not from Josephus.
      It derives from a Syriac manuscript of the 6th-7th century in the British Museum, entitled “Letters of Herod and Pilate.” Only one letter, the first, is said to be by Herod. He writes to inform Pilate of his upcoming demise and all the evils occurring in his family, including the death of Salome in the lake. The sacking of Jerusalem is not the occasion, but may have been made so by the writer of whatever later story you have. You can probably see what I have by looking at Internet Archive or another online library for a volume entitled “Lost Books of the Bible and Forgotten Books of Eden.” The book is not well indexed, but the Letters of Herod and Pilate conclude Part I (of two). The letter supposedly from Herod is on page 269 of that first part.

      You are right that decapitation would suit what is expressed in my poem. Salome sees herself as “cut off from womanhood” by the death of John (the man she would have wanted), and near the end of the poem she blames her mother for having “severed every hope.” With cutting on her mind, she would be more likely than other female suicides (“no grace left to live for”) to disfigure her body. Women are said to prefer poison to preserve their looks, while men go for guns or knives or jumping from dangerous heights, but I can imagine Salome taking a jeweled dagger to the jugular in order to be somewhat like John.

      I do agree with Brian Yapko and Monika Cooper above that Salome could have been “a soul to be saved,” and I am searching for any ancient writing identifying her with the disciple Salome who came to Christ’s tomb on Easter Sunday morning.

      Thanks again for your attention to my poem, and for sharing an interest in this fascinating figure.


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