5.06.2008

The Incumbent


The night before the coronation
We walked the palace gardens at dusk,
Small servants rustling like shadows in her wake.

We passed beneath a magnolia tree. Birds scattered,
leaving a pile of perfect pink-stained petals.
I bent at the waist, a low and careful bow. My left arm curved
To collect the fallen bounty. “Don’t,”
She said. From knee level my blue eyes flicked
To the steel sparks of hers. “Don’t pick it up,”
and don’t put it down.”

And today suitors, lovers, insincere supplicants,
Know they will find no open hands here. Nor enemies,
No bare breast. At night the grounds are littered
With magnolia blossoms,
And the darkness brings only sleep.

painting by Cassandra Barney

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