Hannah Louise Poston

The Princess

 

She cultivated her elusiveness.
In childhood, no jester, queen, or king
could keep her in her seat or in her dress;

in adolescence, no lady-in-waiting
could schedule any plans—
no pleading, no baiting.

Princesses from neighboring lands
would come to call for tea
all corseted, their gowns' trains in hand,

and find the table laid impeccably
with everything a princess supposes
it will be, and the hostess' gilded chair empty

except for a few ashes-of-roses roses
(pale, and so far opened they were rent,
as if the color had escaped in an explosion,

leaving just tint).
Of course, no suitor had a chance—
on garden walks, each would wink and hint,

would pitch a doggedly seductive sentence
to her, gaze dreamily around,
and, turning back the princely glance,

find himself talking to a fish pond,
a bit of topiary, an urn,
the cackling rattle of a palm frond.

She was like a glove of un-dyed yarn
and unpigmented silk, secretly lined
with chameleon skin—she only had to turn

her insides out and tumble to the ground
to vanish consummately in the clot
of herself, impossible to find.

And then one night, a dream that she was caught
sleepwalking naked through the grounds
ended abruptly. She thought

she was waking up. She wouldn't—she bound
herself to shiftlessness and let go
of form. That morning when her maid pulled down

the coverlet from her pillow,
there was just a body-shaped pocket
filled with filaments of willow

and milkweed, which all blew out the window.