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Elizabeth's Rule

Mary B. Moore





With a coy and beguiling voice, Moore takes on the perspective of Elizabeth I, weaving a strong sense of humanity through the historical framework that structures this potent characterization.



I fashioned myself femme, but chaste as ice;

You liked the virgin/mother thing conjoined––

odd now, but I’d intuited Freud.

Plus, who’d dare contradict the Queen?

And I loved a good paradox.  Colossal

in effect for a girl, and coy on parapets,

I did rule the world.  I learned the female

graces, to embroider leaves and thistles,

be fond of a sonnet, a mandolin,

and a man now and then.  Some of my kin

were troublesome, though, and had father

still been around, there’s no doubt he’d prefer

Edward, belated boy, to rule. 

But Edward easily tired.  He whined, puled,

then died of a cold.  I had the last word.

            At some level I knew I was mortal;

that’s why I kept the courtiers

on short reins—who knew when the nervier

ones would conspire my downfall or chortle

behind their hands when I gave my speeches.

(I liked doing the Amazon to send off

the Armada at Tillbury, though even I sweat

under full armor.  The flattened right breast

hurt for days.)

            The world then still ticked around harvest

and planting;  folks still left milk for fairies.

But I prefer our vagaries to yours.

Our weapons were partly imaginary;

we had guns, but still used arrows and hot oil

in a pinch, the latter catapulted over walls.

After that, the stench of sewage was mild.

There were knights who ran wild when unemployed

and I had trouble with some in court.

But we lacked your powers of destruction.

Though the place was fetid on humid days, rain

and snow did wonders for odors, and I dealt

with the petulant knights.  My main complaint

was secrecy:  I must keep my pecadillos

quiet.  I did love Essex, for reasons plain

enough if you’d seen him in tights.  And it pained

me to hear the crowd roar, the axe hit bone.

It made me sick for days.  But I had to gird

my loins.  As deaths are measured, his hurt:

But mother’s schooled me in the rule of stone.







The above lithograph is by Bob Tomolillo and titled "Negotiating the Square Peg into the Round Hole." Check out our interview with Bob. 


Mary Moore has published poems recently in American Poetry Journal, 2riverview, Connotations Press, Prairie Schooner, Kestrel, and others. Her book of poems, The Book of Snow was published by Cleveland State University in 1997.

A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. - Henry David Thoreau


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