Marie Antoinette's Birdcage
Grand entrance woven with wilted warbles
& feather-down falling – a canary-filled gilt birdcage
perches in her wig beside diamonds
unmarred as her wedding sheets were.
The diamonds she wears all have names.
Her fan unfurls with lavish flourish, flash
of fine-rendered feathers on finest paper plucked
brushstroke & lacquer into shafts of chandelier
or, bone-folded & wrist-tied, an aviary of Oriental birds
dangles into half-eaten partridges' carcasses.
Uneven in number, the birds seem to flutter.
She chose her canaries to match.
She carries hidden birds to hide her,
wears canaries for notice – each paired
with its mate & matching pear-drop earring
& fanning simulacra painted rigid-singing,
remaining songless. They flit,
alight & grip the bars as she sways
inside her skirt cage (somewhere a cart
carries canaries into diamond mines).
Fanning wings flutter fans & fans
flap breezes for flight – hinge by hinge
the birds mouth-arc, alighting at her lips & hiding
yawns, wafting panicked birdsong guiltlessly
across the fowl-hunted lawn (no staring starlings, no sparrow
or crow allowed to crowd the music of her wig).
The fan, wrist-forgotten at evening's end,
hangs unclasped, one gold-leaf bird leaving
its clutch. One canary escapes its gilt twig and pair
for the garden & the remaining five finally appear real.
Published under the name Jeanette Karhi in MARGIE, 2006, Vol. 5