My heart dies to this--
The vapid, open-organ music,
that you love.
But still my throat thrums beneath
The open-tummied tuck and trick;
The toil of hooves over intestine;
The visceral beat that hurts me.
Company pretends to know;
Seems to know the beat.
Yet, I feel I am the only one
Who knows the pulse of time.
Perhaps I breathe to time and space,
Tho' most breathe to shallow
withdrawal and empty arms.
Once upon a field of snow the sparrow sang and
the wind did slow. The lovers' bones sunk within
their chest of earth and flesh; fresh did the ground smell
in spite of its old roots and rotted fruits. Footsteps
crossed in jagged paths of miscellaneous findings
and walkers seeking warmer bindings. Beneath
crusted snow lay helpless silt, brought to and fro
through nearby dams rebuilt. The sun crackled
and clucked like the morning chick, then sunk again
with dusk so slick, it melted ice on picket fences
that dead men sturdied every year; the living spare
their own expenses. Rounded hooves trek the white,
as the horses loom and avoid frigid bite.
Looking out through panes of glass I see the world
and all the past, the footprints, trials, deaths
across the pale vast.
Drunk on naught but the sound of the pouring
of bottle into glass. He says: "Say what you will, lass--
I've some few Florins to my name I would send soaring,
had I not forgotten Mass!"
These were the shouts of triviality and lack of schedule,
as my lovedy thinks grand. He absolutely has no hand
for intrusive thinking--nor of full potential;
think he handle money? No! He's the woman; I'm the man.
His head falls and snores catch like stars in atmosphere;
soft sounds put me to sleep, too. Fay visits dreams and sings: "Remember you?
Little black-haired fille when he weds you at your fifteenth year?"
"Nay," I say, then counting backward: "Innocence is just cuckoo."
The Blind Death
She died without knowing that I love her. My only morning flower wilted by midday and fell by dusk, unseen yet by the shadowed words only night can cast light on; my small star burst to scatter herself across a galaxy not known to me, unnoticed yet by the words I wrote on the black in scribbled constellations.
She is gone now, and her last breath lingers like the last pale beams of moonlight in my looking glass after dawn; and yet, she could not even sink away into horizon without my love. She is gone now, and her eyes have sunken to the blue of abyss, and her lips have parted into languishing petals whose scent now floats out the window. Her pale hand in mine could be any, it seems, for in these final moments when I was to grant her light she only met blindness; and she died without known that I love her.
The Beaten Minute
Lost in the dark, tangled in silken threads,
breathe, sigh, swallow; pink in the cheeks,
again and again blank pages read,
ripened spring bud and mounted winter peaks.
Final moments close behind maroon sheets,
breathe, sigh, swallow; black eclipses eye,
heart springs wildly with interconnecting beats,
for a moment it is only fair to die.
White waters comb through unrelenting black,
breathe, sigh, swallow; green follows rain,
white linens over planks, bruises strung along the back,
purpose eats the passion fast, and all that's left is pain.
For a moment he's all mine; he belongs to me,
breathe, sigh swallow, and I'm his,
but the minute's with time flee'd,
and it's back against the rhyme: complaints, critique, analysis.
Beside the Other Bones
Thoughts sail away in loosely packed barrels
tucked within gunpowder and fine silks and
beside the rum. Whether by sunken ship
or port, I am split from them now
until the time I wear away and reside
beside the other bones.
My heart slips away with the pink moon
that parts the horizon like Moses the sea;
dawn shatters the night like broken glass
and my heart is only one of the shards left
beside the murky puddles. Whether by
broom or rain, I am split from it
until the time I wear away and reside
beside the other bones.
Handsome commandeer who steers the ship and
shoots the gun, rob my chest of organs
until again departs the sun. I've nothing left
to give you but my meager, meek backbone
so fare me well; let me reside
beside the other bones.
Elegy of the Gardens
Remember the light-laden morning you woke
to find that, to you, the daisies truthfully spoke
and the marigolds, toward you, amongst rivulets spun
for you shrouded yourself with the gold of the sun.
The lupine shook hands, greeting with eerie smile
and the cattails convened, deciding you worthwhile
whilst you promised false harvest of their unsavory fruit,
rendering their worries for winter minute.
The lady slipper orchids permitted temporary wear
and the poppies accepted your humid affair,
though magnolias squinted their thick-lashed, white eyes
as the lavender hanged at the window did dry.
The peonies sang a song of wither and strain
as the irises quivered with lack of rain
and the naive sweet peas thought you were crying
when salt kissed the soil and flowers were dying.
The gardenias stuttered and held their last breath
and the bleeding heart bled wilting closer to death;
sometimes, at night, they whisper snarls of upset:
"Remember you are the reason we live to forget."
Far from Marches
1 March 1461, London
The sky resembled the calm waters of the River Ure on that day; so far above the maddening crowds it stretched across the ceiling of the universe with the greatest peacefulness God ever gave. Judith looked to it for courage, for God, for a golden day to come; but when she looked to it she saw the blue, then she thought of grey, then she thought of his eyes.
However still the sky seemed, it was as deceptive as the red wax seal on the letter she had received from her father prior to his capture. She never expected her father to write of such horror; he had always kept his daughters within shawls of gilded words. Wars were fought on grounds faraway, blood spilled through the cobblestone streets of towns Judith and her sisters had never heard of, and the throne was as real as a ghost playing in a shadow. But that letter had read of great and true tragedy: the Earl of Rutland was slain in battle. Her best friend; her best love.
Judith tried to center her mind on the good rather than the bad; her father, the Earl of Warwick, was arriving in London victorious, and alongside Edward, the new Duke of York. She was afraid to see the likeness in Edward’s face to that of his younger brother. They looked similar to a degree—both had the same masculine features of a strong jaw, straight nose, and straight brows, but an arcane shadow hung in every slope and bend of Edmund’s face; that enigmatic depth and dusky dignity was what always drew Judith from the charming sunshine of Edward to Edmund.
Most thought Judith foolish and mad to prefer Edmund to Edward, but she figured they couldn’t see what she did; Judith thanked the Father for this esoteric sight. To her, Edward’s beauty thrived too actively on the surface and too idly beneath his skin. And he had grown too reliant on this fact; he bed half the court and flattered the remainder. Learning his character was similar to biting into a outwardly ripe apple and discovering it had begun to rot.
But Judith’s affections no longer mattered; Edmund was slain and Edward was claimant to the throne. Judith would retire to the Earl of Warwick’s chest of valuables.
The Londoners raved like a singular beast; they tore at the air with their dirtied hands and shouted Edward’s name into the clouds. Edward had been victorious at Mortimer’s Cross a month ago; he led the front of Yorkist success. And inward he rode glittering in the finest armor England might ever see. Judith stood beside her great aunt, Cecily Neville, who surely wished she held her two youngest sons beneath her arms. George and Richard had been greatly disturbed by the death of their father and brother; Richard often climbed into Judith’s arms, where he could so safely mourn Edmund’s death. The boys had been sent elsewhere, to a safer place. Judith could read in the slight folds above Cecily’s eyebrows how much she missed them.
On a russet steed, Edward led the party into London. Girls twirled in their finest dresses and wore the White Rose of York in their braided hair, which flew in the wind that ran through London that day. Judith herself felt as hard and static as a statue; the wind hardly touched her, and her dark hair remained bound within a jeweled crespine. Only the pale kirtle revealed in the slashes of her grown moved with the wind; the rest of her broadcloth-clad person remained as stiff as rock. Edmund had always loved Judith’s poise—the snowy slope of her breasts from her high shoulders, and her extended, swanlike neck. Edward preferred women whose breasts spilled from their undergowns and whose hair flew from golden wreaths of braids and berries.
In entourage, Judith caught her father in a brilliant shade of Neville red. She let the smile part her stoic face and shine in his direction; she recognized his inky palfrey Curonious beneath him wearing silver barding. He waved to her with his rough, square hand over the riled crowds who cried as though he waved to them. Judith’s mother cried several steps away and wrapped her shaking arms around her youngest daughters, Isabel and Anne. Isabel was similar to Judith in her hard nature; her eyes held her tears beside her moon-blue irises. Anne, called Nanna and named for her mother Anne Beauchamp, was only five and had a personality still soft-boiled. Only in the years to come would she fabricate as a hardened soul like Judith and Isabel, or a milky feather like their mother. Judith hoped for the former.
When the Duke of York and the Earl of Warwick had crossed the crowds and neared the waiting noblewomen, they removed themselves from their steeds and dropped to the ground. Judith’s father seemed only a glorified and victory-washed version of himself, but Edward appeared to be a new species of man. He was a king—standing a decent length above the mark of six feet and shining in his brilliant armor. His dark orange hair was chopped in line with his hard jaw and chin, and several days without a razor showed on his hollow cheeks.
As Edward stretched for his mother with his long, hard arms, Judith’s father reached for her, her sisters, and her mother. His embrace was as informal as a public display of affection could be; he kissed his wife’s cheeks and his daughters’ foreheads.
“Richard, we were so afeared! The children and I thought you dead,” Anne wept once they went into Baynard’s Castle, where the Yorkist lords and ladies gathered and resided at this time in London. With a side-eyed glance to Judith, Richard acknowledged the inconsistency with which his wife spoke. Perhaps not all the children thought him dead; Richard knew Judith would never doubt his iron grip on life.
“Father, I can’t believe you’ve come back to us!” Nanna squeaked from her low head-level. The vardingale of Nanna’s mock-adult gown swished around her little feet. She ran to clutch her father’s large hand in her tiny ones.
“How could I ever leave you, my fauntkin? Any of you?” Richard asked her. He pulled her up into his arms, against his chest. Judith carefully watched him wince; his body was worn and bruised from the fighting. Richard was young, but not as youthful and fresh as the nineteen year-old Edward Plantagenet.
With the naiveté of a five year-old, Nanna did not notice the slight strain she put on her father. She pulled at the dark hair that hung around his ears; the sable hair on his head matched that on the head of Judith, but it fell straight whilst Judith’s fell in the loose curls belonging to her mother.
Behind the Nevilles, Edward and Cecily walked side by side. Judith glanced backward, seeing Cecily lift a pale hand upward to smooth her thumb over a scarlet stripe that ran across the arch of Edward’s cheek.
“And you, my girl!” Richard’s address to Judith called her back to her family. “Haven’t you missed me? Haven’t I worried you?”
“Papa, you are as strong as the sun. I did not have a moment of uncertainty,” Judith smiled ahead of her.
“Strong as the sun—you embellish!”
“Not!” Edward called from behind. “My lord speaks modestly of his valor. I’m afraid I would not be here if it were not for your father, Lady Judith. At Mortimer’s Cross, he forfended—”
“Your Grace, we need not fill the heads of women with loathly battle tales,” Richard interrupted. The Earl of Warwick still served as Edward’s teacher, as he had always been to some degree.
“You’re right,” Edward withdrew his boyish enthusiasm over Mortimer’s Cross. “I apologize, my ladies.”
Judith was want to the verbal restrictions expected of women and men in court. Wars were not discussed, neither was gore, battle, strategy, nor political maneuverings; these concepts existed outside of the bubble of femininity.
However nightmarish the Yorkists’ Lancastrian opponents were, Judith admired their leader Margaret d’Anjou for the aspects of her of which Judith was deprived. Margaret was not dismissed from military councils; in fact, she orchestrated and commanded them. Judith quietly hoped she would one day possess such strength; however, she knew Margaret’s strength came alongside a certain degree of ruthlessness. Judith could never become was Margaret was.
The civilians outside the gates of Baynard’s Castle still shouted and sang Edward’s name; when the sound was particularly loud, it evoked a pale pink to blossom on the tops of Edward’s cheeks and on his chin.
Walking in the direction of the state apartments, the lords and ladies eventually split amongst themselves. Nanna and Isabel clung to their father’s legs as he walked beside Anne into his chambers; Edward and Cecily ventured further into the halls, departing from Judith respectfully. Judith herself made way for her bedchamber.
Several of her personal attendants were inside, cleaning and preparing and rolling their blankets up from the floor.
“Thomasin,” Judith addressed a freckled handmaiden.
“Could you retrieve that Rouennais set of cards the Earl of Rutland gave me? He was born in Rouen, after all—let us honor the late earl and make use his dear gift,” Judith proposed, keeping a certain shower of sadness from her features. “Let us all play Karnöffel; I know I have taught several of you how to play. Thomasin, Joan, Margery, and Agnes—I know you know how to play. Come sit with me!” Judith exclaimed and sat at the round card table by the fireplace. As Thomasin delivered the cards to the table and Margery made a fire, the four sat down at the small table and began to play.
The fireplace crackled until the sun sat like an egg yolk cracked upon the horizon. By the time dusk arrived, the fire had been reduced to several orange-coated coals sitting solemnly on the grate. The clouds painting the sunset were an ashy shade of violet; they layered on top of one another in ragged strokes. Over Judith’s five spread cards she saw Margaret, a handmaiden not versed in the rules of Karnöffel, staring out to the sunset Judith watched; however, Margaret looked at the ground outside beneath them rather than the sky.
“What is it you’re looking at, Margaret?”
“Nothing milady,” Margaret quickly answered, looking to Judith. “Just several lords are in the court below. The Duke is there, alongside your father.”
“Is that so?” Judith asked, standing and walking toward her handmaiden to borrow her angle. Indeed, in the court below, a retinue of Yorkists walked through the courtyard toward the great hall. “Men and their politics,” Judith sighed.
Judith’s eyes slanted toward Margaret, whose own grey vision closely followed the fair head of the Duke of York. Margaret noticed Judith watching with a raised eyebrow and blushed: “The Duke is very handsome, m’lady. Do ye think so too?”
“Too handsome for his own good, mayhap.”
“Methinks he’s quite goodly as well,” Agnes interjected.
“Yes—most maids would jubilate to be plighted to such a fellow,” Margaret added.
“Plighted to? The betrothal between the Duke and I has surely been sapped, as he is now the Duke of York and, like enough, the heir apparent to the throne of England. I am just the daughter of the Earl of Warwick. The Duke will marry a foreign princess; such an arrangement would be most suitable.”
Margaret grew noticeably crestfallen at this news; she had probably grown excited at the prospect of attending the Duchess of York.
“A pity, milady,” said Agnes.
“I thought Edmund the more handsome of the brothers,” Thomasin expressed an opinion with which Judith agreed. “Impenetrable men capture me most fervently.”
“Impenetrable? Isn’t penetrability the most vital concept to a man?” Joan quipped, causing the other handmaidens to sneer and clatter like ducklings on a pond.
“You indelicate woman!” Agnes giggled. Judith herself watched the women clamor in a laughter Judith herself always felt separated from. Such lewd talk was always amusing, but never close to her.
As the handmaidens simmered, Judith figured it was time to begin to get ready for that night’s feast. Agnes and Thomasin unpacked a moss green gown; it was notably modern, with lines that followed the contours of Judith’s lithe figure and bell-shaped, slashed sleeves. The fabric was elaborate damask from Italy, styled with golden artichokes and silver flowers; the neckerchief revealed by the wide opening of the gown was sheer and laden with slender, gilded threads. Whilst Margaret fashioned a jeweled girdle around Judith’s high and slender waistline, Margery braided pale green ribands into the dark hair that circled the delicate netting of Judith’s crespine; to faithfully meet the church’s advice on feminine dress, a translucent veil was fastened to the pearled netting and hung around Judith’s slim shoulders.
Judith stood before the mirror, studying the areas of herself she could see through the clearer regions of reflection.
“A vision as always, my fair daughter,” announced Richard Neville’s sonorous voice. Judith turned and smiled beautifully, exposing her widely-coveted rows of relatively straight, ivory teeth.
“Papa!” Judith exclaimed, glad her father had visited her without the company of her mother and sisters. Judith’s handmaidens all curtsied for their earl.
“Dearest Judith, the moon of my night sky! My firstborn, my favorite,” Richard captured his eldest daughter in his burly arms.
“Papa, you shouldn’t say such a thing!”
“’Tis true, sweeting,” he shrugged.
“Too doting you are!”
“I’ll escort you to the repast, my dear. For you I have questions,” Richard said and
extended his arm. Judith claimed his elbow, allowing her to guide them out of her chambers and into the corridor. She gained one last glimpse of the sky before departing. The sky was nearing darkness.
“What is it, Papa? Have you questions of military stratagem to ask?” Judith laughed femininely, although her request was not just.
Richard chuckled. “How that would delight you! I’m afraid not; these wonderings are not so thrilling.”
“You worry me more now than you did during the months past. What tedious tidings need you ask of me?”
“I fear for your heart, my girl. We have all lost so many in these past months, but whilst the world was blind to your love for Rutland—thus, you suffer alone. Need you my arms? How does my girl carry on?”
“Like the sun across the blue sky, Papa. All men must die; Edmund was lost early, like a babe ripped from his mother’s womb. Yet, he is happiest and safest with Him now; my sorrow will only keep him tethered to this sinful world. He gave me hope and love, and now his time is done.”
The words were like salt in her mouth; they burned her tongue and made her look elsewhere for water. Natheless, she needed it to keep her meats good.
“My sweet and clever girl,” he sighed. “Though, I know behind a strong mouth may lie a weak mind. I fear for the resilience of your spirits. How should you ever be happy again?”
“There is still much to be merry for, Papa. You need not worry for my spirits—they are still bright and disporting.”
Judith reached into the basin and retrieved a linen cloth with which she washed her wrists and hands. Isabel had spilled several drops of watered wine on Judith, causing a stickiness to claim her fingers.
“This currant cake has too much cinnamon!” Nanna exclaimed from the left side of Judith. To her right was Isabel.
“Stop behaving like a quean, Nanna. The currant cake is perfectly satisfactory.”
“Did you know, Lady Anne—there are some knights who say cinnamon is fished up in nets at the edges of the world?” The Duke of York interjected from across the table. “And others who say giant cinnamon birds pluck up sticks of cinnamon from giant trees on an unknown land, and then they make their nests with them.”
“But Your Grace, how do we get them if the cinnamon birds make their nests out of them?” Nanna asked curiously.
“The paynims to the East know how to trick the birds into giving them pieces of their nests.”
Nanna smiled widely, revealing several holes where her infant teeth had fallen out. Then she looked to Judith and sneered: “Not even you knew that, Judith.”
Judith looked across the table at Edward with an empty and childish glance. “I never professed to know everything,” she argued in defense.
“You act like you do,” Nanna replied.
“For surety, I know more than you.”
“Girls!” Shouted Anne Beaufort from several seats down. This effectively silenced both Nanna and Judith.
“Oh, let them squabble, Anne! I haven’t heard their bittersweet bickering in far too long. And look at this, my cousin joins in!” The Earl of Warwick interrupted from the right side of Edward. “Well I suppose you are nearly a brother to them both.”
“You speak too soon,” said George Neville, the newly appointed Chancellor. George was the uncle of Judith, Isabelle, and Nanna; he was preferred by none. John was the favorite uncle by all three of the girls, but at that moment he was within the fist of the cold Lancastrian hand. John was as colorful as character as Warwick, whilst George’s dedication to ecclesiastical life had washed him of all color but Neville red. He was a stalwart Yorkist and quick military mind, but rather dull in character. Behind John in the line of favoritism was Uncle Tom, whose lack of seriousness regularly put Judith off but often intrigued Nanna. Regardless, he was no longer in the running as he had died at Wakefield. Of all the deaths at Wakefield, his was not the most crushing.
“Why is that?” Judith asked with a pleasant smile.
“You are to be the Duchess of York, Judith. I do hope you do not look at Edward as though he were a brother,” the Earl of Warwick chuckled against the rim of his wine goblet.
“If so, you’re in for a characteristically awakening wedding night,” George chimed with unexpected mirth.
With dark, raised eyebrows, Judith looked at the Duke across the table. His eyes were watching the tablecloth as though the fowl designed on it flew across the corn yellow linen. “I’ve not the birth of a queen of England! Edward is to be coronated within the fortnight, yea? I cannot tilt with Bona of Savoy, or Catharine of Bourbon—”
“A woman should not be ware of such intelligence, Warwick,” George Neville warned his brother. These were the names wrapped beneath the finest of silk; these were the faces of politics that only a select few could look at. Judith was not one of these select few, but her father often drew her sketches of what the faces looked like.
From across the table, the Duke of York drew attention with a boyish cough of address. Judith looked at him, her fair cheeks fluttering pink with confusion. “My lady, we were betrothed at the ages of four and seven. I do not intend to break that betrothal now, nor do I ever. Regardless of my condition as anything but Duke of York, you will be my wife,” Edward spoke with a new air. It was the same she had identified when he first walked his horse into the raving crowds of Londoners earlier that day; he spoke with the mouth of a king. “The Nevilles have aided my cause tremendously; I’d have been silly without your father. I will make his daughter Duchess of York.”
Judith had always known her father would marry her away to the highest bidder. Up until recent times, the Countess of March was the highest offer she had received yet. Though now she was skipping stones: the Duchess of York then the Queen of England. Edward had no right keeping her on his sleeve; damned be age-old betrothals—in the golden court of kings and queens, honor was no element.
“Your Grace, there is no need for this,” Judith insisted. Yet the blue of Edward’s eyes was hard and sure like metal, whilst Judith’s were the delicate blue of pond water.
“Yea, there is. How can I be expected to maintain alliances with foreign powers when I cannot maintain alliances with the lords of my land? I swore to give your father a Countess of March and mayhap a Duchess of York. Now I shall.”
“You are to be king, Your Grace.”
“No decision has been made in regards to those politics, nor should you take them into account. Are you not happy to be made Duchess of York?” Edward spoke with a clear and loud voice. The king was shining through the remaining cracks of the boy; Judith was not sure whether she liked it or not. Edward had always admired Judith’s rather unfeminine interest in politics and strategy, yet now he shooed her away. She figured she had not yet grown wont to the Duke’s new stripe of vanity; she wondered if his treatment of her was a result of this.
“I am, Your Grace,” Judith quieted. “I am just verily surprised.”
The wide and stiff angle of Edward’s shoulders softened minutely at Judith’s emotional retraction. He watched her from across the table as her eyes focused on the meat on her plate. Judith thought of the life she could have had with Edmund: unbounded freedom and intimacy. Edmund had promised her the happiness and liberation she always sought. But now he was dead, and her tie to Edward was strengthened by this death.
Aside from all reasons Edward had announced at the feast, Judith knew more lay behind his decision to carry out the marriage. The extent of Edmund and Judith’s relationship remained between them, or within Judith as she was the only one left; no doubt, Edward questioned her virtue. He planned to keep her safe through his marriage to her, as opposed to that with any other lordling who might take issue with the potential absence of virtue.
From beside Edward, the Earl of Warwick cleared his throat to recenter the attention. “A council meets tomorrow to discuss… hereditary matters. The results of the congregation will determine your wedding day, my girl. I expect I shall unhand you soon; with speed you will be the Duchess in a matter of days.”
The Earl stood whilst pushing back his chair. Edward stood next, making Warwick—a tall man indeed—appear as though longitudinally stunted. Following suit, Judith and her sisters stood to curtsy.
“We’ve matters to tend to,” Edward announced. “Farewell, my ladies.”
“Your Grace,” they spoke in unison.
With a final dabbling of scarred and masculine hands in the shallow basin, they were gone.
Evenings at Versailles
Carved German clock sings golden knocks
at every hour; how Marie cowered
like a flower wilted in fall or painted doll;
Outside hot mouths cried words uncouth,
and asked for blood at doors; rain and gore.
The little ones sucking their thumbs and
pulling frills, counting clock's trills—
think of foothills, and small birds on blouses' sleeves;
berry laden leaves.
Too young afeared, how virtue's smeared
By crooks crying justice and drying bulbous tears.
Operatic fire sings for noble kings;
Hearken, l'oisillon, to the people's coup.
Blood once blue has soured red;
coats the dead but burns in you.
How you grew amongst the gardens,
grant of pardons, the life unhardened.
The only task approaches; darling, ask
why your subjects abandoned their protections
and in stead threw their bread
and took Mother's head.
This Is Nothing Special:
You and I took the train to Boston with our friends
and we drank wine on the way there
and on the way back.
It was a Sunday and we went to the museum;
and you never cared for art--
but you found something little in you that time
(maybe it was just for me).
We went to the little Italian restaurant where the
waiter asked if I was Ukrainian, and I said:
"You're actually not the first to ask."
(you called me your Ukrainian princess from then on)
Then our friends left because they were tired.
We then went to the Italian café that serves gelato and coffee
and treats customers like they're supposed to.
We kissed with cappuccino foam on our lips;
and then walked around the Commons
so we could hear the fall flowers hum.
We took the train home once again,
then a cab from the station
(in which I fell asleep upon your lap).
These memories last, but their blood washes away with the Monday rain.