Mata Hari’s Head
Mata Hari’s head was embalmed,
perpetually pickled youth, and later stolen
or lost. (Just like a woman,
chants the chorus, all male.
“You know, if it weren’t attached…”)
It wasn’t enough for us to ogle
those curving lips in life—your lips,
snaking limbs and shaking ass
spiced in bangles and imagination,
a savory dish.
Intrigue and scandal we devoured
just as heartily. We wanted
every part of you in parts.
What remained at the stake—
long, proud, dusky, Colette recollected—
was retired from public consumption.
Those fig-ripe ears, nutmeg
eyes and eyelashes, raspberry tresses,
everything above frosted neck white as alabaster
and whiter still in death
was sliced and served upon a platter
to the Museum of Anatomy in Paris.
You were everything
we wanted you to be: disembodied
display, exotic dancer, courtesan, mother, spy.
Duplicitous, just like a woman,
the chorus brays, their double standard
like a bludgeon, bayonet, gun
(insert your phallic image here).
They shot you, surely,
a thousand times before they killed you.
I’m not justifying treason.
I’m merely trying to determine
exactly what was betrayed.
Jeff Fearnside’s poetry appears in various literary journals, including The Fourth River, Permafrost, Blue Earth Review, Clackamas Literary Review, The Los Angeles Review, and—most recently—About Place Journal, Elohi Gadugi Journal, Soul-Lit, Kudzu House Quarterly, and Forest Under Story: A Decade of Creative Inquiry in an Old-Growth Forest (University of Washington Press), an anthology of writers who have been awarded residencies at the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest. His short-story collection Making Love While Levitating Three Feet in the Air: And Other Stories of Flight, a finalist for the New Rivers Press MVP Award and the Permafrost Book Prize in Fiction, is published by the Stephen F. Austin State University Press. He also publishes nonfiction, most recently in Potomac Review and ISLE. He lives with his wife and their two cats in Corvallis, where he teaches at Oregon State University and is at work on various writing projects. www.Jeff-Fearnside.com