My father hawked me to my husband like a horse
who needed breaking, but whose saddle bags
would ache with gold to pay the fearless rider.
We were wed, and I moved to his stable,
a mansion carved of ivory and plushed
with silk and velvet. Every morning, gold
bells chime to wake me. I am trimmed in lace
and sent to breakfast, then waltzed through halls of mirrors
or chambers of music and libraries choked with books,
too many to be able to read in one lifetime.
But my husband is an animal who grows
roses against my ribs with his fists.
I will find a necklace among his treasures
only to have him rip it against my neck,
the gems and gold dispelled across the tiles
as my collar stains with blood. He'll storm away,
leaving me to gather up the stones
as though it never happened. I'll retreat
through the gardens in the morning, fountains
splashing away the sound of my sobs.
My husband will offer me a goldfinch over dinner,
then a starling, a thrush, a woodlark, siskin
after quail, dove after nightingale,
until the aviary surges with song.
I creep in after the candles dim themselves,
and knowing what my husband's claws could do,
the silent bodies with snapped necks,
I open tiny doors until the room
is but scattered feathers and empty cages.
He locks me in my room again, away
from the meddling eyes of clerks, claims me ill
until the bruises dissipate. I live on
scraps he leaves for me, but hunger is part
of the punishments, and I wane as deep as the moon.
Some nights I swear I hear the house speaking;
candles confide in me through smoke, clocks
knell their miseries, even the rug
unravels its remorse. My husband is deaf
to this gossip against him, the way the tapestries
plot themselves to nooses, the armory
eager to wage a war of liberation.
I know. I know the wardrobe will not stand witness,
the Meissen service cannot testify
on my behalf. Still, those nights when my back
is so contused I cannot lay down to sleep
or my eye is so swollen I cannot see the stars,
I listen at the door, hoping to hear
the cleavers in the kitchen block, the secrets
only they could whisper against my wrists.