Grieving


Anne Boleyn? Hans Holbein the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

(a response to Holbein’s sketch,
purportedly of Anne Boleyn)

So, is this really you? Those full lips
well kissed, I have no doubt,
your pretty duckys hidden, fit for ravagers
we call kings. Holbein’s profile, it
simply shines your intelligence, courts
with language, love and ideas,
perhaps a little too much for kings
and enemies to take, at a time
when your sex are meant to be
little more than slaves and vessels
for petulant princes.

But no one can stop me grieving:
I imagine you blink, turn
and smile at me. Oh,
you are strong and keen, yet tender
and kind like all mothers
and lovers should be. No wonder
other men may have dreamed
on those lips, carried away
by your verve, which only victors
ever get to call treason. Now I wish
I could touch your fine chin
and whisper: “Elizabeth—
remember Elizabeth!” My words
vanish into air like justice, while you
stare blankly through Traitor’s Gate;
but this little girl takes the better part
of you, better than any king before
or since, of this abject state

poem © copyright David F. Barker

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48 thoughts on “Grieving

  1. nice….i really like the second stanza where you start to get into others response and then your own to her…No wonder
    other men may have dreamed on those lips, carried away
    by your verve, which only victors ever get to call treason…nice line, esp like the use of verve..

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  2. Loved this.Poor Anne was so set up.
    What a coincidence. My piece was about another of Henry’s wives. LOL You chose Anne Boleyn and I chose Anne of Cleves because a house of hers in Lewes is quite close to where I was born and raised. Odd that we should both chose to write about Henry V111 wives though…LOL

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  3. Really well crafted. Loved the fact that you started from the perspective of almost a voyeur looking in rather than doing a straight historic retell. At times this felt very decadent and your words were as fine as Anne’s lovely bone structure.

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  4. Thank you! Yes, truth and beauty are what I admire most. I think Anne was beautiful in body and mind. So tragic, yet at least her daughter to some extent, lived for her.

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  5. Well, David… we seem to share a desire to represent Anne again and yet again. Who was she, who wrote her story?

    I love your approach, starting with the sketch, the use made of her by artists and princes. The second stanza attempting to peel back some of the layers of who she might have been as a human being… but always the narrator’s connection. Exploring.

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  6. Thank you so much Becky!
    Yes, I’ve find her a fascinating and tragic figure too. She was ahead of her time, a woman showing she was more than a match for any man but living in a world that was even more male dominated than now. She was clearly intelligent, more intelligent than her oaf of a husband. I admire her incredible dignity on the scaffold, how anyone could do that, I don’t know; how any could murder, yes murder, such an intelligent and beautiful woman as this, I don’t know. Of course she was innocent. Her ‘true’ story, will of course, be never known. But…. Elizabeth, as I say in the poem, did manage to steer England through some tortuous times, a time when a monarch was probably needed. She did live the life that Anne could have. I’m now going to watch a documentary about Marilyn Monroe…

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  7. love the very personal voice in this..

    Now I wish
    I could touch your fine chin
    and whisper: “Elizabeth—
    remember Elizabeth!…. great….

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  8. The little duckys so sweet and sad. Brutal times. (We think today is bad. Well, it is bad! Still.)

    Very well wrought, like the lined Holbein. k.

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  9. I like the way you’ve expressed how she appears a woman ahead of her time by appearing to be intelligent as well as pretty, and not the biddable creature society required her to be. This really is a lovely poem.

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  10. The closing is my favorite part:

    “My words
    vanish into air like justice, while you
    stare blankly through Traitor’s Gate;
    but this little girl takes the better part
    of you, better than any king before
    or since, of this abject state”

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  11. Terrific use of this image. I couldn’t stop looking at it and just imagining. Love to heard this “spoken word”, to hear it the way you intend it to sound. Very commanding piece of writing here bud.

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  12. I like the lines “Those full lips well kissed, I have no doubt, your pretty duckys hidden, fit for ravagers we call kings.”

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  13. I have always been somewhat fascinated with Henry and his wives too! I love that you chose to write about one of them.

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  14. What a great use of her lips as a starting point! Or focus point? I love that drawing too. (And I live that we both used the word “purportedly” in the first lines of our posts.)

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  15. I love how you used her lips as a focal point. Great drawing indeed! And it’s funny how we both used the word “purportedly” in the first lines of our posts.

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  16. I love the point of view, imagining that Elizabeth did in fact see her mother in this way. Gorgeous write. Thank you.

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  17. Aah Anne ..what a life
    how beautifuly your words sketch your thoughts
    Now I wish
    I could touch your fine chin
    and whisper: “Elizabeth—
    remember Elizabeth!” My words
    vanish into air like justice, while you
    stare blankly through Traitor’s Gate;….bliss

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  18. David this is just so smartly poignant and beautifully touching. It would be difficult to select just one stand-out phrase meaningful to me, but I liked the string of thoughts that come to me with “perhaps a little too much for kings
    and enemies to take.” I am fascinated with Henry’s women and you’ve brought to mind the enigmatic qualities of Anne and her endurance and why we hold fascination after centuries…and I have little curiosity or interest in the King! Debra

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  19. Thank you so much Debra! I too have little time for Henry VIII and much time for Anne, a woman ahead of her time, so intelligent but a victim of the state.

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  20. Thank you very much Pete! When you guys got rid of us in 1776 you also got rid of that monarchy baggage – a good thing?

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  21. If I have the chance to be a well known, figure from history, from the past, I’d definitely want to be Anne Boleyn! I admire her! And your poem … a perfection worth remembering. I’m going to have a little blogging break, but when I’m back, I would like to post your poem on my blog! Regards!

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  22. Lovely poem, David…I like the two different perspectives in each stanza and one of my favorite lines is:
    “Oh,
    you are strong and keen, yet tender
    and kind like all mothers
    and lovers should be.”

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  23. This is such a wonderful poem, DJ. An excellent reflection on the Holbein painting. As a historical fiction writer, I so admire the way you reflect on history in verse, creating a powerful image of Anne Boleyn as a resourceful, experienced woman who was also vulnerable. Your personal grief and direct speaking to her about her child Elizabeth is really effective and touching. I loved this!

    Like

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