02 January 2009

Linda Gregerson

[from Linda Gregerson's Waterborne, Houghton Mifflin, 2002]

A History Play

Months later — I’d been cleaning
                            my desk —
                these bits of gold foil spilled to the ground

a second time, five-petaled blossoms of public
                unloosed from the folded playbill as in

August from the heavens at the Swan, Act
                to mark the child Elizabeth’s birth.

The old queen has been put aside (I am not
                            such a truant as not
                to know
), the new one’s doomed (the language

I have lived in
), the girlchild is herself
                            a sign of grace
                withheld. But look at these sumptuous

velvets with their branchwork and encrusted
                you’d think the hand of death would be afraid

to strike. That’s wrong. You’d think
                            that death
                had held the needle and dispensed the worm-

wrought thread. The players will be wanting their late
                            supper soon, while
                we — we two and our two girls —

set out across the footbridge on our way back
                The waterfowl will be asleep — they’re sleeping

already — their willow-strewn and fecal
                            island silent
                in the summer night. The past that for a moment

turned, backlit, thick
                            with presence, as though
                leading us somehow, in its very

inadvertence giving way to this
                            slight stench
                beneath a moon-washed bridge, the past

that has a place for us will know us by
                            our scattered
                wake. (A strange tongue makes) And morning

meanwhile yet to come (my cause
                            more strange
                the girls will have hot chocolate with their toast

and eggs. The play? (which we will talk about) Tenacious
                            in its
                praise and fierce in its elisions. So

father, mother (older than the cast-off queen), two
                            girls: an open book.
                And spilling from the binding, gold.

Waterborne: Poems

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