Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
(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.)