Andrea Scarpino

Jerusalem, AD 70

Eat, for I have eaten already. Do not show yourselves weaker 
than a woman, or more pitiful than a mother.

        —Mary, daughter of Eleazar, as told by Flavius Josephus

Mary held her baby in her arms, a son born
as the siege began. No milk in days,

she boiled broth from clumps of grass
the neighbors sold, held it to his mouth.

His face grew gaunt, her arms so thin it hurt
to carry him. Too hunger-filled to sleep,

she held her fingers to his throat until
his breathing stopped, weaved a skewer

through his ribs, set him on a spit
above the fire. His skin crackled in the heat,

his bony back, rounded stomach, feet,
the smell of roasting flesh more pungent than

the excrement, the burning at the city gates.
A meal, the first in weeks. After she ate

of his flesh, the neighbor men broke down
her door, demanded their share of meat.

Their clothing cracked with dirt, their mouths,
a hollow smell. She pointed to her child’s

remains, said quietly, I knew you’d come. Eat.