Some Men Like Dead Girls Best

by: , May 14, 2019

© Saint Lucy (1521) by Domenico Beccafumi

Sometimes when I can’t sleep I 

burn my eyes out on my screen 

the blue-light of my phone  

ruining my tender biochemistry 

in ways science can’t really communicate 

because it only understands the language of money 

& prohibition, which I refuse absolutely 

because I’m a woman, & underslept, & have 

learnt from women so long dead  

they’ve become pictures of themselves  

the worst sacrifice  

the most complete obliteration 


Saint Agatha lost her breasts 

& Saint Margaret lost her head 

but my favourite paintings are ones of Saint Lucy  

in which she holds her eyes on a plate 

or sometimes at the ends of two twisting green shoots 

like a man-eating plant in an old B movie 

only with two blinking eyes instead of the fold of snapping mouth 


There’s nothing wrong with holding your eyes on a plate 

if someone has gouged them out for you 

because you wouldn’t have sex with him  

& though a jar is more tidy than a plate 

less slippery, less likely to gather dust or crows 

a plate has the kind of gravitas I think I’d find comforting  

in my new eyeless state 

with the blood tricking lines down my cheeks 

& me popping up like a haughty ghoul  

to teach men & women a lesson about love & limits & regret 

which never go out of fashion, even though I’ve been dead for so long 

my eyes look like balls of mouldy plastic 

pinging around in the broken pinball machine 

of my abandoned, morality-tale of a life 


What confuses me about Saint Lucy  

is that even though she has her eyes on a plate 

or sometimes in her little gross bouquet  

she’s usually painted with eyes as well 

(eyes in their sockets 

which look just like the ones she’s holding 

as if virginity is its own reward 

as if god has given them right back to her  

as if her body is a magical machine  

whose eyes can be gouged out endlessly & they’ll grow back  

each time more beautiful & strange 

bluer and bluer 

like song birds 

like cornflowers 

like blue birds 

like blue money 

which is a kind of money that is sad 

& a kind of money which is dangerous 

& a kind of money which is naughty 

like a child, like the banking system, 

like a man who won’t take no for an answer 


Saint Lucy wasn’t naughty 

as far as god was concerned 

because she was a virgin & couldn’t be killed by fire or oxen 

She was so damp & sacred all the way through  

any fire that touched her went out immediately 

She was so strong & serious that any oxen that were chained to her 

split in two when they tried to move her 

as if she was a steel pillar dug deep into the ground 

or an oil rig, pulling all the black gold money  

from the earth into the light 

Saint Lucy is the patron saint of light 

& also of eye disorders, because being eyeless 

she can totally identify with anyone suffering from those conditions 


I like Saint Lucy best when she has her eyes in her palms  

& her eyelids closed, because at least then you know where to look  

when you’re having a conversation with her 

When she has her eyes on a plate & also in her head 

she must get annoyed with people looking at the plate  

& not her eyes 

like sometimes men speak to women’s breasts 

& not their faces 

even though their eyes are never in their breasts 

not even in Saint Lucy’s  

not in stained glass windows or gilded triptychs  

painted by men who like the idea of the incorruptible virgin 

& also the idea of punishing her 


Saint Lucy isn’t even my favourite  

I like St. Triduana best 

even though she’s probably apocryphal  

which means if she didn’t exist you’d have to invent her 

knowing that you’d needed her all along 


She was never painted by Bernini, Giotto, Caravaggio 

or Artemisia Gentileschi 

though I think she’d have liked to paint her 

like she painted Judith beheading Holofernes 

with maximum pleasure & the blood drippy  

like maple syrup 

on the pancake of his neck 


Triduana was like Lucy: pursued by a man  

who wouldn’t take no for an answer 

because she had such beautiful eyes 

so what did she expect? 

She didn’t wait for him to come for hershe came for herself 

She gouged out her own eyes with a thorn  

& sent them to him, possibly on a plate 

more likely in a box 

because to travel so far, it wouldn’t be decent 

no not decent at all 

to send them so nakedly 


There are no pictures of Triduana 

no one wanted to paint her 

no one wanted to look at her 

she got the virgin shtick wrong 

crossed a line sending her eyes out like that 

when all he’d wanted to do was ruin her life 


I think about her a lot  

when I’m not sleeping 

thinking about all the no’s ever spoken  

all the thorns that have been reached for 

all the eyes in their sockets 

the plates in their cupboards 

the boxes empty, tidy in the drawer 


Some men like dead girls best  

but Triduana lived for decades  

healing the blind like it was no big deal 

and died an old woman  

asleep in her bed 

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