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French court

counsel of an 18th century Parisian libertine to her young charge, cobbled together from the French

He keeps a cabinet
of pretty speech
of trinkets made from
iridescent sheen collected
from the surface of soap
bubbles that have
journeyed from the
washerwoman’s toils
far upstream. What burbles
from his mouth—I cannot
stress this heartily enough—
the words you think you want
to hear, “Mon Dieu, from him!”
they’ll pop before your
eyes, and in that blinding
moment when it seems
that all is clear and found
and true and whole, he’ll
rob you of what little
you allow yourself to say
from your own mouth
that’s good in you.

And poof, like that,
his task is done. The
bubble’s burst, of course,
but he’s not gone, this
demiurge, for surfaces
remain; appearances hold
reign as absolute as any
Louis, roi or duc. The tops
of things is all you’ll see
while he holds court,
while in the caverns of
your soft and pretty belly
a mad yowling will be heard,
a dragon’s tortured breath
that seems to char the silken
weave of what you once
perceived—and rightly!—of
yourself: that you are pure
and incorruptible, beyond
all measurable worth.
Such are his works.

But mighty they are not,
nor wondrous, for what
the half-desiring lacks and
therefore must obtain by
force or guile is the power,
yours alone and ever so—
the power, my sweet
heiress, to conceive.


© Elaine Stirling, 2013
Painting by Jacob van Schuppen,
circa 1700