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(Anne Boleyn’s Communion chalice, donated by Elizabeth I’s physician,

is displayed in a niche in the above.)



Had her head been brought in on a platter,

she might have seen a vaulted porch, with veins

like gills, or fine tracery of brocade;

or diagrams of a nervous system;

or skeletal frames of hooped farthingales.

That narrow windpipe staircase on the right,

constricted as her white, extended throat,

might have reminded her of a Tower

and the futility of counting steps.


This holy place was built on virgin wool.

It was a fold for sheep, who stood before

shearers and then were led to swift slaughter.

Here is a wine glass pulpit, slim as waists,

pre-gravid: a stem for those who could grasp.


A Lamb prayed such a cup would pass from Him,

but had to drink it to the bitter dregs

and she had her Gethsemane as well.

Benjamin, caught with a stolen vessel,

was offered clemency – but she had none.

Her gilt chalice, though charged with sacred blood,

conferred no immunity,  nor did it

prevent Dissolution of the Abbey.


Criticism of a current favourite

did John the Baptist no favours either.

But the dancer in Herod’s court was sly –

perhaps more so than this sloe-eyed woman,

who ultimately was beheaded too.


May, the traditional time for losing

one’s heart to one’s love, was a nuptial month,

but also a month of execution.


Cherry tree confetti in the graveyard,

proleptic of this afternoon’s wedding,

has already been bruised and downtrodden.


You may sit on a Woolsack, or a throne,

and gain the whole world, or lose your own head.


(The engraved acanthus decoration

evokes immortality; lineage.

Though its thorny leaves speak of sin and pain,

it was an apt gift to a physician,

from the grateful daughter of Anne Boleyn.)