Salome by Carol Ann Duffy

Salome and the Apparition of The Baptist’s Head. Watercolour by Gustave Moreau

Set in the modern society, and made contemporary Salome is a poem about a drunken woman who decapitates the heads of the men that she sleeps with.
This can be inferred from the title ‘salome’. Salome was a biblical character who turned insane after asking for a head on a platter from her step-father, the king. This historical context can help with the inference of the title and what the poem is about.
There are a references to biblical features throughout the poem ‘lamb turned to the slaughter’ (dehumanisation, of a sacrificial lamb)
The parable of the sheep and the goat. The sheep go to heaven and the goats go to hell. (Source)

Salome by Carol Ann Duffy


I’d done it before

(and doubtless I’ll do it again,

sooner or later) woke up with a head on the pillow beside me – whose? –

what did it matter?

Good-looking, of course, dark hair, rather matted;

the reddish beard several shades lighter;

with very deep lines around the eyes,

from pain, Id guess, maybe laughter;

and a beautiful crimson mouth that obviously knew

how to flatter …

which I kissed …

Colder than pewter.

Strange. What was his name? Peter?


Simon? Andrew? John? I knew I’d feel better

for tea, dry toast, no butter,

so rang for the maid.

And, indeed, her innocent clatter

of cups and plates,


her clearing of clutter,

her regional patter,

were just what needed –

hungover and wrecked as I was from a night on the batter.


Never again!

I needed to clean up my act,

get fitter,

cut out the booze and the fags and the sex.

Yes. And as for the latter,

it was time to turf out the blighter,

the beater or biter,

who’d come like a lamb to the slaughter

to Salome’s bed.


In the mirror, I saw my eyes glitter.

I flung back the sticky red sheets,

and there, like I said – and ain’t life a bitch –

was his head on a platter.

About Carol Ann Duffy

Poetry, above all, is a series of intense moments – its power is not in narrative. I’m not dealing with facts, I’m dealing with emotion.” Carol Ann Duffy

The first female, Scottish Poet Laureate in the role’s 400 year history, Carol Ann Duffy’s combination of tenderness and toughness, humour and lyricism, unconventional attitudes and conventional forms, has won her a very wide audience of readers and listeners.

Read her full biography here.

Watch an interview with Carol Ann Duffy.

See how controversial poets can be; Carol Ann Duffy declares God to be gay in her poem response to the Orlando massacre.


About Salome:

Salome (/səˈlm/;[1] Greek: Σαλώμη Salōmē, pronounced [salóːmeː]; c. AD 14 – between 62 and 71) was the daughter of Herod II and Herodias. She is infamous for demanding and receiving the head of John the Baptist, according to the New Testament.

Salome is often identified with the dancing woman from the New Testament (Mark 6:17-29 and Matthew 14:3-11, where, however, her name is not given). Christian traditions depict her as an icon of dangerous female seductiveness, notably in regard to the dance mentioned in the New Testament, which is thought to have had an erotic element to it, and in some later transformations it has further been iconized as the Dance of the Seven Veils. Other elements of Christian tradition concentrate on her lighthearted and cold foolishness that, according to the gospels, led to John the Baptist‘s death. (Mark 6:25-27; Matthew 14:8-11)

A similar motif was struck by Oscar Wilde in his Salome, in which she plays the role of femme fatale. This parallel representation of the Christian iconography, made even more memorable by Richard Strauss’ opera based on Wilde’s work, is as consistent with Josephus’ account as the traditional Christian depiction; however, according to the Romanized Jewish historian, Salome lived long enough to marry twice and raise several children. Few literary accounts elaborate the biographical data given by Josephus.

Read more on Wikipedia


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