ADIEUX À MARIE STUART



I imagine her, Mary,
when they come for her
at the sunrise
in the Spring.
En ma fin
est mon commencement.

Dark circles of fatigue
around her eyes,
unslept since
Fotheringhay.

Dressed in embroidered satin,
Catholic black
and white lawn veil,
betrothed to God and death,
she paces out the Rosary,
unattended
to the block,

save for her lapdog,
a Skye terrier
hiding beneath her skirts,
a fierce storm of loyalty
hot at her ankle.

Before a noble audience of men
two executioners
roughly strip her:
“Now truly, my lords, I never
had two such grooms wait on me before!”
And then the pale throat
and décolleté laid bare, aflush:
blood-red petticoat,
blood-red sleeves,
red for the blood of the martyrs,
defiant to the end.

Pale Elizabeth watches
from a high window,
her white silks, chaste and virginal
buttoned up to the tall ruff.
She withdraws
for the dolorous blow:
deniable culpability.

"In manus tuas, Domine,
commendo spiritum meum"
Whether the axe wasn’t sharp
or the executioner’s hand
unsteady,
the second blow
finished it.

He holds the head high.
The tight
auburn curls tumble
into the pool of blood – a wig!
Vain to the end.
They could not make
her little dog leave her.

Everything is burned.
There will be no relics.

Elizabeth feigned fury
as the bonfires leapt in London.

Grief-mad Scottish nobles
made suicidal charges on the border
(not that her beloved son,
for whom all this was for
showed any sign of caring,
preferring the hunt).

In Paris the priests chant requiems
in Notre Dame, and Henri,
cursing, refuses to see
Elizabeth’s ambassador.

In Spain mad Philip
from Escorial shadows
calls for his generals

and galleons.

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