Arthur to Guinevere
If I had loved you more, or loved the simple
hound-smooth job of loping after beauty,
there would not have been, for you,
the torches, the mean white burning of the truth.
But duty goes to the eye that sees and loves it,
and it was mine like sunlight or a gift.
Love was the grey glow of a shadow only,
the attenuated heat of bones.
You have gone and left me with a story—
a sad and lesser thing.
And at its end you do not love me
as the story does.
I am alone with the flickering snow
and the heavy stone I cannot help but hold.
I will hold it until I am cold and covered with dark.
Until I too am without thought and beautiful.
Guinevere to Arthur
i. The Beginning
The wizard warned you away from me!
Malice slipped from his old, distorted face,
a red fruit sagging around his words.
His wishes were oddly visible to me,
seeds as hard and large as pebbles.
Rage came around me: I, the lion face that flared
among my husband’s enemies, the woman pushing
her hand into the fire as if it were a wild music!
A love that repeats and floats, white buds dropping.
Never your downfall, the one who unraveled it all!
Many men are slant in the forest of light,
but my husband was straight and clear to me, aglow.
The knowing true: an artifact of our marveling,
folding edges, their excited emptiness. I was never an idea!
More a mild animal that loved. Loved the galloping wishes.
Wide-faced, loud, wiping the world with its grin.
A muscular, innocent thing like a tail or an eyeball
that moves utterly when it is pleased and eager to follow.
ii. The End
I wanted only to make us the same, two white lights
turning like pages, touching one wind.
I wanted my husband to look at me and know his way.
I loved with the red-faced fervor of the washerwomen,
dragging a thing through lye, knowing what it needed to be.
I remember the sorcerer now, among his many truths
that came to glow and harden gradually, like minerals.
His words overtake me, the woman in a lie,
hoping no one can see my thoughts, the looping words
that allow me to love and not love, to love elsewhere.
I know the nearness, the knots and knuckles of my hands,
their several nearnesses, to all that unwinds.
I am the light that is less than true. Let me go
among the corrupt, the dead with their ash-white eyes.
Let the singers blow on the little fire of what I meant.
Patricia Nelson has worked with the “Activist” group of poets in Northern California. She is working on a series of poems based on the characters in the King Arthur legends. Her new book, Out of the Underworld, is due out this year from Poetic Matrix Press.
Artist: Henry L. Jones
2019 – 16×20 inches – mixed media on canvas