Sport 7: Winter 1991
♣ Elizabeth Smither
How well the plain wears.
The butler's room seems so
Desirable beside the Queen's.
The regulation parlourmaid's
Mattress though thin
Is posture-pedic on its wires
And not half as dusty as the King's
Nightly tossings in a turret
Of high dust curtains and crown
A room a Queen would fear to enter
Without appointment. Imagine
The closed curtains parting
Perhaps in the middle of a dream.
Oh, it's only you, the Queen
Come in and share the blanket
Which on the butler's bed
Is fastened with a pin
Perfectly proportioned, like the stitches.
How hard to arrange chaise longue
Escritoire, night cabinet
To look informal in a room
The size of a cathedral vestibule
Or to lower the ceiling
With huge portraits over fireplaces.
Only the servants' quarters to which
They climbed, with trouser press
And floral jug, look neat
And gentle as an hour off
To rest the feet, open a book
And lie beneath the coverlet.
Her unblemished skin thick with pancake
Like wing dust, she asks me if I know
The meaning of 'butterflies' in dreams.
How light sometimes a librarian's footsteps
To the small reference section of the arcane
And quick through the index to Dreams.
'Butterflies = to fluctuate' I explain
Wondering how she will interpret this:
As fate unkind or rising like a sea?
Soon we are bending over the hugest Dictionary
And I am making sea-motions with my hands
'Your fate will ebb and flow, it sounds hopeful
Some things will go well, some less so
But butterflies in dreams are not threatening
Even the Oxford English Dictionary says so.'