Monody in Ice
How I remember you,
All in your order.
The undescript face with which I see you end,
Mewling poppet grasping at your mother's breast,
Your skin the mirror of the milk you nurse,
Your hair a fuss of spiderwebs your nurses
murmur to and brush with cloth,
Your eyes reflecting skies you cannot grasp.
In your sleep
I watched you as a child:
blue eyes covered with bruise-brown lids,
fox-red hair a jumbled, woven braid,
pale skin flushed with thoughts of boys,
small hands clasped a pillow to your breast.
I was that old man
you passed in play,
That time it was
near your father's oaks,
past your first decade.
It was a month short of your birthday:
The greybeard looming sudden in your course
Who startled you, so that you fell.
You glared at me accusing, and I, too old?
Too proud? Too feeble for a princess' aid.
Yes, you were younger then, I, older. I knew you
Better then, not foolish with my retrogravid youth.
You pouted, and I patronized
the baby queen and senile sage.
The eldest oak you clambered on, hung knee-locked
from the branches, that was mine,
planted when your father's father
dreamed of siring sons.
I found the king your husband,
to your father's joy.
I made him for you,
from a wild sprout of my planting,
planting Uther's seed.
It was I, that ancient crone who promised you,
construing your palm's runes,
a husband who'd hold history,
his nation's, like a chalice
for his private thirst.
It was I, silent from deafness, or it seemed,
who promised you no sons, no daughter too.
It was I who said that he would always love you:
you failed to ask the other.
His love; I said it would outlive you.
I did not promise you his body.
I promised yours, and only that, to him.
I could not save you from your knight of shame.
Knowing where the path must lead,
I led your husband to him.
Knowing who the lance would wound,
I gave them to each other.
Knowing what the end must be,
I made your husband love him.
Knowing when you saw the man,
All my will would be undone,
I showed you him, him you,
And stood aside
to watch the castle crumble.
Your taste in men will always
make me shudder.
Poor Arthur, so plain a hero,
all Yorkshire pudding and
brown beef. His crown's mate
sat loosely on your brow.
Fidelity to such as he is mercy
(or imagination's bound).
Poor Lancelot, the artless paladin,
no Christian in his loyalty,
no brother in his love,
simpleton of but one luxury,
wielding the fool's sword.
his master's Judas,
your betraying champion.
I heard you murmur love's entreatings,
(picked from the sounding chaos of all
that ever said, was heard behind me);
I saw your thighs embrace them
(believe I could not help but see;
my eyes do not avert); and I thought,
of such coupling kingdoms come;
of such couplings kingdoms die;
then, at last,
such waste, on boys so soon
to die as well.
Forgive me. It was not my time.
Now Arthur's dead, and
Dead the gleaming lover.
Blue skies are clouded and
all colors mute in dusk,
Grey hair, sparse and brittle,
crackles at the skull's roll,
Skin, paper-thin, white, lit from within,
Claws grope an empty, unused breast.
I dreamed, last moment, of two lovers,
Necks in jewelled collars, joined
by an iron rod of twenty spans,
Unable to touch even toes: mortality.
How kind, that we at least approach.
I am young today,
by my weird count,
And you are old.
The abbess dreams,
a dark man in the shadows bids her,
"Come. Be young";
And I dream here:
red hair warms my sleep,
red lips restore me.
Dreams bear no defilement but the worst.
Now is my time,
the spinning now
before you're born.