Gertrude, After The Poison                                                         

Gertrude, do not drink.
I will, my lord; I pray you, pardon me


A lightening mask of panic
flashed upon him.  He looked
away, whined a toast,
and then he
watched me die.  I’ll give him
that he caught me as
I crumpled into nothing, gowning
into the gully
of his arm.  His
whinny of regret should
have been a shriek.  I lay

in awe at my
unweeded life.  I was
foxed, forgetful.  Mistook
a small coin of affection
for the ruby.  

of winter, flowered and feted, politics
plating my hair, diplomacy
ribboned my waist, I purred to the altar.  A bride
in amber.  Until
my son returned.
When we were new
mother new son, he sat
beside me, pleaded pudding
with buttercupped embraces or
from my lap’s promontory directed
tapestries on my loom—wisechild
fingers pointing

where the rabbit should live,
that the archer should miss,
that the snow
should show no trace
of blood nor wound and that
the sun must weep great
streamers against the chill

white silk  Not
his father’s son.  Only
mine.               When

our weaponsman returned
him from lessons
well-taught, tear streaked,
he’d whimper into the hollow
of my neck until he slept.  Those
nights I’d keep away his death.  Against
my will, I’d make a parent’s
nightmare real: envision
the too small casket,
too small, and walk
the cortege barefoot, scattering lilies,

black-veiled, black-willed.  Those
nights I’d curse Motherhood
and God and negotiate with any
listening spirit who’d take me
in trade.

—Elizabeth Iannaci, Los Angeles, CA