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Four Long Years At Court

I really miss the forest. And how

I used to hide there with the Queen.

I miss how we used to dance

and how we’d run from Court.

I miss the buttons (oh, her buttons),

how they’d shine in the late light

when she wasn’t looking at me

arriving in the thicket—

where she’d somehow gotten first.

I wish she’d step down for the first time

again to greet me. In the great hall

where all the beasts’ heads hovered.

All the torches lit her from within.

I was looking at the white bat cup the buck’s rack,

swinging in the firelight like a lantern.

I saw its bones. Saw the fingers

hook onto to the antler. There she was.

Beside me. Watching me not see her.

You look to your right and time becomes

a torch blown huge. It was like that.

The bat looked like an otter’s stomach

blown into a lamp. I told her so.

The way you will. If I had turned away.

Toward the ladies dancing. Toward

the door and walked out to the courtyard.

Toward the axes lined in rows and clean.

I miss how we’d walk into the clearings

and the caves. The deer walked up from the ravines

and stared. I wasn’t scared of them or me

even with the things I’d done. Not when

she was there. I was so enamored

of the bat. Swinging. I could see its body

through the thin shroud of its wings.

I thought, I could kill it with one hand.

There she was. Watching me think it.

Watching me shake the thought of other

things into the darkness of the hall.

She touched my shoulder. Did I sing?

Sometimes to myself. Sitting by the river

or in the night to keep me safe. Sometimes

my name softly to myself to remind me.

Once beside my mother who’d swelled

to the size of a sheep. The deer

is in the thicket. The fox is in the glade.

Like that ‘til she stopped breathing

and after as I watched the women

wash her. Not scared anymore,

neither one of us. I told her so.

How I sang. Of the fox and of the deer.

She held me in the clearing.

We could see the Towers

from there. It feels so long ago

and also like yesterday. Stepped down

from her throne and then together

in the forest. That fast and also

through the hours beside the King.

Turn toward me. I’d think it as she sat.

Turn. All the beasts’ heads waiting.

The boars’ mouths open. The lynx

with its pink tongue. The deer,

the deer, the deer one after another

on the walls. The hinds and harts.

The ten point stag I took down

as a mercy after the King missed

its chest seven times. I killed him

as he tried to crawl away. I sang

Stop. Sang, The deer is in the thicket

as his eyes rolled. The fox is in

the glade. I took his antler in my left

hand and pulled back, Hey lolly lolly,

pulled back until he groaned. I miss

the moment before it started,

the body just a figment, the deer

nothing but a song I sang beside

my mother as she died. It can

take forever. You can make a life

up in the time it takes to watch

your mother die. I was in the glade,

no I was in the bedroom, no

I was nowhere in the story.

Was nowhere to be found. I want

her back. I want the castle

and the bat. I even want the stag

who couldn’t make up his mind

if he should die or not. If he should

let me pull his neck back. Or not.

Get loose and double, I’d sing

alone in my room or on the train

or as I walked to work. The world

around, a tapestry. I’d cock my head,

I’d see the stag. I’d cock my head,

I’d see the men in business suits.

I miss the Queen. I want her here.

Beside me. The null point’s like a glade

where she’d lay me down beside

the stream. The beetles’ armies

resting on the rocks. The Towers

in the distance. Your friends are with you

then they’re gone. Your mother’s with you

then she’s gone. My armor shone

all morning, by nightfall it was blood and ash.

Hey lolly lolly. The fox is in the glade.

The debt collectors and the cans of soup.

One minute you’re a castle. The next

you’re just a cloud. Turn around.

Turn around in the late light.

If I cock my head I see the armies.

I could have walked from Court

and just kept going. Did I sing?

Ask the fox or the stag with his neck

pulled back. I want it back.

from Rocket FantasticFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Published in Gabrielle Calvocoressi Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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