In the Gardens at Versailles
The shrouded pathway
shadowed with perfume
leads to a forest prayer room,
the same room where a blind dauphin
slept as a child, felt
the weather travel beneath his feet.
A boy dressed in blue silk hides
behind a painted screen,
shelters in a seductive lean-to.
A scattering of leaves
from the golden tree
carpets the labyrinth.
The court ladies fritter and dart,
eager to be seen, their laughter
echoing through the tall trees,
the electricity from their hair
rewarding the king-to-be with a
smegma-scent of youth.
Dusk settles and she alights from
her carriage into this place,
the gardens flamed with a thousand torches.
To be still, to be lost, to be betrayed,
she yearns to meet with the young man
on the far side of the grand canal
in his small boat, scratching
a synthetic heart.
She hesitates to wave. For she is new,
this king-mistress, summoned from the country,
and must not be too familiar.
Her pink dress is muddied already.
And as the boat rows into far distance a chill breeze
catches her veins.
Once bathed and finely combed-through
she is guided to Apollo's chamber
and pollen-dusted by tuberose.
From the high tower the old king,
dressed in his best robes,
admires an unknown pastel-bud,
casts pods and soft petals
from an open window. They float from the high tower -
love-philtres delightful to the touch.
She catches one; rubs
its pale beauty into her eyes...
and is struck blind.
Do you remember being old, and sleeping
in the forest ? On the cusp of darkness
a nurse will kneel, take your hand,
lead you to a bright space
in the meadow - a space that glistens
like a polished window - seat you
on a grey-bleached tree-trunk
like a sentry guard
in a long-forgotten museum.
My lungs are dry; my eyelids swell.
My dream is of the long-lost child,
and of pain endured.
Of the hours I ran free, of the time
I hid with a king-to-be along the forest pathway
the warmth of his sun settled on my cheek.
The old king watches from his tower.
He watches the dauphin walk among the meadow's
ripe flowers, hand-in-hand with the nurse
who will be your saviour, forever
re-tracing the artifact of a life -
a life you cannot see,
that breaks and scatters
on the soft grass like a distant,