I lick her plate, press tongue to fork and spoon,
kiss her goblet and pillowcase. I bare my ass
to her chamberpot, ready my breasts
for her shift, my skin for her bodice
in case. Who knows where poison may be laced?
My breath barely catches in cold linen,
only threadbare dread of the bath. I’m not
allowed to drink my Lady’s daily dram
of liquid gold, or pass the alicorn
over Her Majesty’s feast, stab its gyre
through crust to seasoned meat. Someday, I’ll visit
northern shores where they herd to die, bones licked
by ocean’s salt. I’ll gather my own worth
ten times its weight in gold, but for now
I’m a three-minute empress—long enough
for burn to seep—my life an escutcheon.
How well her bright wig hides my dull tresses.
How swanly her face, chalk white in powders,
mercury, arsenic, those vermillion lips
puckered to a pout, her jewels at my throat:
momentary weight of a golden noose.
Dayna Patterson is the author of Titania in Yellow (Porkbelly Press, 2019) and If Mother Braids a Waterfall (Signature Books, 2020). Her creative work has appeared recently in POETRY, AGNI, and Passages North, among others. She is the founding editor-in-chief of Psaltery & Lyreand a co-editor of Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry. daynapatterson.com
Artwork: Annie Stegg, Flight of Discord