Some night in the 1580s, she snaps the last knot off with her teeth By candle-light. One blob under the tail and she has him, in tent Stitch: startled king from Icones Animalium, a beast she's never seen. Ears, silver-pink abalone. Feet lost in a webbed pool Of bubbles: blue muttonfat peas. She rests him on her lap Writing letters in her head, unsendable as words for resin In Armenian akrolect. Her cousin knows everything she has to say Already. It's been said. Outside, the black unbroken forest Rides to London. Wolves kill a roe, for cubs whose last descendent Will be shot in Mary's realm, two hundred years down the line. But she, in these walls, is marigold: a heliotrope, Turning to sun that will never warm her skin again, Ransacking old books in Spanish for emblems of hope.
Down south, the keyboard's come from Florian, in Venice. Cousin E tries some Byrdian version of Only the Lonely, checks The gilt inlay, Islamic painted whorls, the logo of falcon and sceptre. (Her mum's. She paid extra for that.) A fretted bronze rose For the sound-hole: an eavesdropping sun. She's awaiting her spies. She has become her own grotesque. She can never give in. She sends men to the tropics, men to death. When her blood says Dance, she will gavotte the night away with the Earl of Leicester. Are there tears for what she looks like now; for who on earth else May show up in her bed? When melancholy strikes, they see Her turn to a Pavane. Shadow-bones, capitate, triquetral, lunate, Stripe and flinch in the back of her hand. One frizzed hair, White and red, drifts down over black middle C.
And if you and I held hands across this room, touched DNA Of their touch sloughed off on this tusker Embroidered in velvet and lint, this Venice lacquer, Cypress, ebony, we would join fingerprints that never met.
“I pine away, grievously wounded by the power of my love for that pearl.” Using objects from the Word & Image Department, untangle the many layers of love, bereavement, beauty, faith and visionary experience in this fourteenth-century poem.