A year ago when my mother stiffened with flecks of consumption,
a bloody veiled marionette, my father pierced my back with a jade hook
while I kissed her shrunken palms.
Hooks for strings, twisted sheep gut to play me
so I would dance and tumble, his twelve year old poppet,
a honeyed minuet for his fumbling play.
Blood on his sheets, they all looked away.
He was their king. Every night we danced,
a pearl net capturing my hair, moons that will never set.
I would never leave his bed he told me.
But I had swallowed the melody of my mother's skin,
a tattling of sharps, crescendos and arpeggios.
Until one night, I scurried, glissaded and slithered.
A swarm of copper leaf sedge, foxtails and nettles pricked my palms,
sharp as gold lace, his nails, and bitten notes.
With a half moon of a knife, I took him, a red deer hart. Crushed amaryllis
and blood splattering my skin, a constellation to be deciphered.
I pared him neatly: meat, muscle and sinew.
Then I swallowed his eyes so I could cipher the shivering of branches
as well as I could unravel the shift of a courtier's eye,
a musician's stuttered pause when my father's conjured musk
grazed my neck, small nibbles, gravid damask planting me,
soil to be sowed. But I never wanted to be planted
with heirs and half brothers, with brittle, fretful bowing.
When I was done, the hart's skin now my cloak,
I composed a maze of hart bones
with a flagrant opening so his spirit could leave,
a peppering of hooves, his muzzle a downy yielding,
a last curtesy before a partner bows and the last yielding ends.
I had licked my mother's song into his hide. I had told the hart stories
until he loved me. Tomorrow night my father will be startled when I smile,
kiss during the Gavotte, the court stone still for a moment,
hissing birds silenced with relief. They think finally she accepts.
Then I will blossom with fur and fluted tender ears,
my antlers piercing my father's guts.
They will twine like vines, a Mayday circlet.
I will feel my mother's fingers dancing on my hide.
Every night we will dance. She promised me.