Project Orpheus is a celebration of the timeless stories told to us through painting masterpieces. Enjoy prose and poetry inspired by this masterpiece by Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari, Susanna and the Elders. 

Audio Podcast

Project Orpheus | Susanna and the Elders by Danny Ballan

Susanna took a stroll among her own roses, her private garden, her special place away from the world that’s always been watching, lusting, waiting for a chance to pluck a rose from that garden, especially the one forbidden, the one not put on display, the one she alone had the right to use; that was the one craved the most by all.

Why must she hide away from the sacred feminine beauty bestowed on her as part of the miracle of life embodied in her beautiful breasts? So dear to her for they were her own, but so dear to many lurking eyes compared to those they had at home or others at their disposal. Why couldn’t she be proud of who she was, and why can’t her body be part of it? Why did she have to be shy to prove her chastity to the world? Why couldn’t she celebrate herself whole, body, mind and soul? Why did she have to prove anything? Why should there be two Susannas?

Most of her admirers thought her most intimate moment was in bed and they craved a moment in hers, and envied whom consensually in there resided. All thoughts and fantasies imagined beneath her timid looks a wild beast unleashed at the sight of their manly power. Yet Susanna’s most intimate time of all was when she was alone showering in her private garden. Hers were hands that appreciated every touch; hers were hands so gentle that knew where and how to caress; hers were hands that truly knew what it meant to love. No man’s hands could ever do that. No man’s hands would go past what a man shortsightedly see. “Why would the world crave my body? Why does nobody crave me?” Susanna thought as pure water cascaded through her fingers and splashed so gently on her skin to cleanse the filthy eyes still fixed above but failed to see within.

Then two men so powerfully revered by all trespassed her private space, and they thought they scored as they saw what they dreamed of seeing for so long, threatened her to lay with them or be called a whore. Susanna said no, and they would never understand that a no means no. They would insist and threaten her with scandals stacked in their pockets like coins they used to buy everybody else. Susanna resisted and in court, her case against them was almost lost, but a fair judge believed her cause, cross-examined the two bastards and knew Susanna was innocent, and sentenced the bastards to death.

I would love to tell you there are many fair judges still Susanna, please don’t lose heart, but why would an innocent woman have to be put on the stand? I would love to tell you that I among the few who knew you were innocent, but like them all, I watched, waited, and left you to your fate. Why would the honorable have to defend their honor? I would love to tell that our times are better, that rules are fairer, that women’s rights are stronger, but there is still a long way ahead, Susanna. Why does a woman has to justify her beauty? Why does she still have to fight for her human rights? Nothing has really changed, Susanna. Nothing has really changed yet.

Susanna and the Elders

What changed since you, Susanna?

The same lustful looks

The same dirty books

The same stolen thoughts—

Your intimate self

Is never yourself,

Your virtue is unacceptable

As still in the mind of man

You are a property still, Susanna.

 

On every street corner

We celebrate your sexuality

On every billboard a dream and a fantasy—

You cannot sell if we cease to buy

Being a market, it’s been ours ever since.

The ultimate goal a vicious virile wish,

Your breasts and legs in our feast a dish—

We can only have so much before we go along

And the sickness endures

And the world goes on.

 

When did no mean anything else?

But in the world of men,

God bless the yes

And maybe is a promise

But no is unheard of—

Maybe you just want to kiss

And tomorrow you will melt

At the sight of our loose biceps

And the ash in our pockets

We so much tend to call cash.

 

No Susanna, you did stand your ground—

You should have been a toy

To please for a little while a boy

Who never learned to grow up

Be what everyone is calling him anyway—

You should have always been a figment

Only reminisced in the dark corners

Of that primitive hairy mind,

No Susanna, you did stand your ground

And defended what according to us,

we should defend

We are the fallen

 but you will forever stand.

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