You begin with Be, end with a glorious
hiss: Beatrice. Steel teeth. Fire biter. Ms.
Moxie. Not Dante’s Beatrice. Not
an enskied, enshrined thing, a silent,
saintly ladylove bright-beaconing
from Paradise. More Kate than
Bianca. More Jo than Beth. Wild
spice. Word wise. Spitfire. Sharp
wit. Less tame and more shrew.
Less pink and more red. You
invite Benedick to dinner with a knife,
show him the quickest way to Hero’s
vengeance with your tongue blade.
A dame who doesn’t give a damn,
rejecting a prostrate prince,
you’re the niece who does give
a piece of her mind to anyone
who’ll listen, and sentence-sears
those who won’t. And while benedict,
a twisted form of your beau’s name,
has entered English as a noun
(DEF. a long-time bachelor newly wed)
I hear the verb in you: lava-veined lady,
whetted weapon, clever dueler, you
beatrice crosswise, cut against the grain.
Dayna Patterson is Managing Editor of Bellingham Review, Poetry Editor of Exponent II Magazine, and Founding Editor of Psaltery & Lyre. Her poems have appeared in North American Review, Literary Mama, Weave, Sweet Tree Review, and others.