The girl who picks up pearls

 

Sur des châles jonches l’Empereur marche, noir / et propre  (Arthur Rimbaud)

 

 

Quarried bricks at Kings Dyke stack up next the tracks

like your idiot subjects, blood of rack-rent and iron teeth—

a specious feudal alchemy for which they’d eat their own

children to touch the foot of your high street dress. My Duchess!

How you have plunged us into a medieval darkness, and fretful

sale bins, rummaging for an ovarian image of royal material

with which to hide the gnarls of our education, spinsterhood,

real talent that plagues women of a certain generation. Alas,

if there’s anything better than aiming for something it’s surely

aiming for nothing, dimpled in antique lace stitched to silk

hauled from the white mucosal bowels of privilege. I hope

they chopped the expert hands off those poor seamstresses

like the Mughal did after his slaves finished the Taj Mahal—

I hope your ladies-in-waiting sacrificed each to your fertility—

lined up round your ritual bedchamber, hissing with the black

laughter of women who only ever birth princes. The floral chorus

waves their merciless ancient symbols as you ascend sylph-like

into the plain air above them, buttressed by a stock of deranged

hopefuls, my sisters, our mothers, towering skyward in fever.

 

Sandeep Parmar


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