Queen

(British Museum)

 

TERRY JONES

 

What flung me out of life, I do not know:

all I can recall again and again

is the orange light like a thunderstorm,

then the hands of the funeral-men.

Present and absent, I watched the preparation,

all its careful, careless holy butchery:

 

my hooked womb and brain flung in a bucket,

clots of mud in my little belly,

the twists of straw squeezed in my chest;

I was tucked and packed for the gods,

shaped for the brighter kingdom.

The dirty priests pawed and mauled;

 

my every privacy opened.  One, alone

in shadows, bent and tongued my mouth,

nuzzled black hair, touched here, felt there:

how he would have suffered, skinned to bone,

pegged eyeless for stinging flies and sun .

What could I do, who alive was a queen,

 

everywhere worshipped and borne?

I was the blind Nile, long silt girl

adorned with purpled eyes and still smile

I would never have chosen or worn.

Empty headed, I was spread for indignities,

made cold alabaster, rose hue fading,

 

drying desert flower.  Then night came.

There, unaided with my terror of spiders

I was spider-wrapped, loomed in the dark

to wait on the dune crawl of centuries,

settlement into this, my final spectacle.

I lie quietly amongst these low admirers:

 

they shuffle and stare where my breasts,

where my thighs might have been.

Soon they will go out to their droning world

leaving my last attendants, sombre, bored,

who departing to their own affairs

will pause only to gesture away the light.

 

‘Queen’ was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition, April 2012.

 

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