The Token

(for Estefania, now gone)

Estef again

 

A caterpillar inched across the path
as we three sat to gossip in the sun.
On such a day as this it was,
and here, on this plush lawn;
the path shone white and he lay
there as bright as any jewel;
and soft he was as any fur
and plumper than a pod.

‘It is a sign,’ you whispered;
‘he comes here to point the way;
and ponderous and slow he is,
yet he comes straight from God.’

‘From where?’ I said, and curled my lip
to think that God might care,
my life in disarray and only sadness in my heart.

‘From God,’ you said, ‘or from that place
where all your beauty is.
He tells you trust in time’s slow work
to grant you wings to fly.

On such a day as this it was
and here, on this plush lawn;
and, though the sun
sank down to sleep,
still all we three
sat safe and close,
just as the evening
air was warm;
and not a passing thought
we had for how the dark closed in
nor did I think this day to weep
to think how true you spoke.

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Wyatt

Perhaps

(On the execution of Lady Jane Grey, 

Monday, February 12th, 1554)

Not, in truth, a martyr but a trembling girl,
how you must have quaked at the scene:
perhaps the spring surprised the dawn,
silvering the close-cropped winter grass;
and, perhaps, you leaned forward for one last glimpse
and felt your child’s heart leap,
a flightless bird put up too late,
its green wings yearning after skies;
and as he came back, in that blood-bespattered cart,
perhaps, you did cry out: ‘O, Guildford, Guilford,
O, my husband, O, my one true love’
as they lead you then where the scaffold stood
against the tower’s white walls.
And perhaps it was there you shook off
your fear, recalling how he laid you down,
an eager bride, half giddy, in the circle of those lifeless arms,
finding comfort, perhaps, to think how brief
a widowhood was destined to be yours
as you mounted the steps, your eyes still dry,
read your Miserere and died.
Or perhaps you did not. Perhaps you mourned
a women’s life unlived and wept to know the greed
of those who gambled with your head;
cursed, perhaps, the father who gave you up,
the husband who could only whine and die;
perhaps you railed against your fate
even as you seemed so much resigned.
‘I pray you despatch me quickly,’ you said
as you laid your white neck down.

Abigail Elizabeth Ottley Wyatt

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