Poetry

1

The Good Citizen

Charlotte
Ties her country
Bonnet under her chin
And gathers wild flowers to cheer
Madame.

Charlotte
Is fair, blonde, pale,
With small hands in white gloves
And small feet in tan doeskin shoes.
She hears

Madame’s
Distress, despair.
What will she do without
Her canoness pension? How will
She live?

Charlotte
Bends in prayer.
Through the open window,
She hears the Girondins return
And dreads

The news,
Fears it—Fears the
Guillotine’s bloody blade
That falls like the lid of Marat’s
Hot eye.

2

The Friend of the People

Marat
Seldom goes out.
He stays sunk in his bath
Writing the infamous news.
Marat,

They say,
Dresses carelessly,
Torn garments of strange cut,
Dirty handkerchief round his head.
He jumps,

They say,
Rather than walks,
Abrupt, agitated movements.
His limbs, they say, all atwitter.
His skin,

Painful,
Torments him so.
A sheet wraps him like a
Shroud: a board lay across the tub,
His table.

He writes,
Death to the King!
Death to Marie Antoinette!
Marat is the people’s friend.
Charlotte knocks.

3

The Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat

Marat
Does not now that
He is already dead,
Killed by Charlotte’s gentle hand.
Regard

Her pale, slender
Fingers, loose now around
The dagger that drips with his blood.
Fingers,

Amie,
Delicate ones
And Catholic. Fingers,
Royalist and patriotic, hers.
The knife,

Without
Passion, without
Conviction, remains pure:
Clatters to the tile floor after
The deed.

Charlotte,
All untrembling,
Does not yet now her head
Will meet justice’s bloody basket.
She waits.

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