The Suitable Girl - Michelle McGrane

I'm delighted to be able to post a poem from Michelle McGrane's recent collection 'The Suitable Girl', published by Pindrop Press.

Princesse de Lamballe

He skewers my matted, blonde head on a pike,
shows me the city's less-fêted sights:
growling alleys and ravenous back streets
guttered with urine, nightsoil and vermin;
toothless, frayed women queuing for bread,
each coarse, weevilled loaf fourteen copper sous;
the Hôpital des Quinze-Vingt's shuffling inmates
tapping for alms amid the stalls of Les Halles;
Saint-Marcel tanneries' frame-stretched hides
kneaded supple with beef greaves and brains;
the Seine choked with debris and tangled milfoil,
a carcass sliding into the Pont Neuf's shadows.

The Queen's playing tric-trac in the tower,
twenty guards flanking the Temple's iron portal.
She's raised the stakes, the bone dice clattering
across the pearwood and ebony board.
The scrofulous sans-culotte belting Ça Ira
braces my face to the crosshatched casing,
my fractured cheek arch, bloodied tongue,
smashed teeth, splintered jaw.
Remember Petit Trianon, ma chérie,
the dovecote and mill, cherry orchard and lake.
Remember the hyacinths we planted last autumn,
how we split our sides milking the goats.

This poem first appeared in Horizon Review, Issue 4.

Michelle McGrane lives in Johannesburg and blogs at peony moon.


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