The silence woke her. Beyond the locked door
by now her maids should be chattering
in that harsh tongue. She went to the window.
Even the gulls on the battlements were mute.
And no guards on the ramparts, nobody
in the bailey. The straits were the colour
of the emerald at her neck – her father’s
wedding gift. A barque moved edgily
through the sands. Its pennants spoke of home.
The island’s coast was clear in the sun.
She imagined the light summer wind
stirring its fecund, strategic fields.
Her door was unlocked, opened and flung wide.
The Prince held a red cloth. “Cover your eyes.”
As she tied the cloth in place, he said,
“Who can find a virtuous woman?”
He put his hand in the small of her back,
steering her from her chamber into his,
impelling her to the window. She felt
the gentle air from the valley, inhaled
the woods and the river. He pulled the cloth
hard from her head. Eyes shocked wide in death,
her lover hung from a gibbet. She watched
the body move this way, that way; listened
to the rope creak; turned to her husband.
“Until I die, I shall count the years
I will have loved him as a benison.”
Note: The poem has subsequently been published at