previous | next

                                              (“Reine de France Marie”, ‘Quatrain’,                                              Mary, Queen of Scots)

When I sit late at works, almost
within the verdure of this tower’s
only tapestry – rabbits in an orange tree
by my shoulder - an old globe
chases silly latitudes beneath
the casement window and looking out,
the scant, dank countryside makes up
fields of  Poitou mist. Distantly at first,
- but the globe creaks it closer - a giant
oak shaped like a country crests
towards my berth. A man wreathed
in raindrops disembarks. Do the King’s
swans flee him? Is that cry a peacock
at midday? I hear his feet discretely
pad the pockmarked steps and now
he is before me. Alone. With his box
of little instruments. He is a humble
man and the Scots leid on his lips is
just the burr that made my cradle sleepy.
Together we compare our cabinet of works:
my petit point, his burin, my panels
of darned net, his tiny hammers,
chalk and chisels, a balletic compass
to take the measure of my smile.
I laugh and show him coins a plenty:
Billons, testoons emblazoned with my features
and the King’s, French treasure of our large
estates and mottos, trees of Jesse, crosses,
fleurs de lys and lion rampant. Poor man!
His journey has been fruitless. And yet
he shields his eyes against my two poor
candles and beckons me down the cold
stone steps towards his ship quoting
Leonardo: ‘In the streets at twilight, Madam,
note the faces of men and women
when the weather is bad, how much attractiveness
is seen in them.’ He will draw me,
draw me into the haar which lies on
this strange country like a mourning veil.
I nod above my embroidery, start awake
and hunt for my jewelled casket,
feverishly fingering small change
for the evidence of my head.