(Poem by Wendy Howe )
On a Spring night, 1537
the nude mistress from Poitiers
confesses her thoughts.
The king still a boy, bids me to shed
my black silk and sculpt his room
with curvaceous moonlight. Outside,
doves sing in the evening garden.
They are white and supple as I was
when first attending court, a girl bride
who found solace in the lakes
and arbors of Fontainebleau.
Now I lean on the rim of youth's mirror
grinding age down to the powder
that conceals my face,
the blend of wild flowers and bark
that lightens my hair.
Still, Henri finds me beautiful
beyond maidens his own age. Nineteen or less,
they despise his affections toward
la belle savante, the huntress who taught him
to pursue lute and sonnet, secret corners of shade
and torso that make women crave his touch
more than sweet cream.
As a gift, he gave me these birds
who grace the lilacs and harbor peace.
Yet, beneath their fair poise -- I know
discontent strains to fall
heaped around bare ankles like my gown,
a darkness I cannot rip
out of my life or wardrobe.
The king still a boy, bids me to love him
but another evening will come, light
will filter through the leaves
and so will a younger, blossoming shadow
To know more about this poem, about Wendy Howe
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