By Stephen Dunn
It's like this, the king marries
a commoner, and the populace cheers.
She doesn't even know how to curtsy,
but he loves her manners in bed.
Why doesn't the king do what his father did,
the king's mother wonders—
those peasant girls brought in
through that secret entrance, that's how
a kingdom works best. But marriage!
The king's mother won't come out
of her room, and a strange democracy
radiates throughout the land,
which causes widespread dreaming,
a general hopefulness. This is,
of course, how people get hurt,
how history gets its ziggy shape.
The king locks his wife in the tower
because she's begun to ride
her horse far into the woods.
How unqueenly to come back
to the castle like that,
so sweaty and flushed. The only answer,
his mother decides, is stricter rules—
no whispering in the corridors,
no gaiety in the fields.
The king announces his wife is very tired
and has decided to lie down,
and issues an edict that all things yours
are once again his.
This is the kind of law
history loves, which contains
its own demise. The villagers conspire
for years, waiting for the right time,
which never arrives. There's only
that one person, not exactly brave,
but too unhappy to be reasonable,
who crosses the moat, scales the walls.
I spent all day Thursday very close to home catching up on stuff that had been put off since we went to France -- believe it or not, it took me till today to put all my laundry away. The weather was so gorgeous that I had to take a couple of walks, one on the woods path where I was hoping to see deer but ran into utility workers instead, the other in a big loop around the neighborhood to see everyone's daffodils. I also had to rearrange all my decks of playing and Tarot cards to make room for the ones I got in France -- one day I will have a tower room with big stone shelves for them all.
We did not have the Château de Brézé on our list of potential places to visit in the Loire Valley until Kay told me her kids had loved visiting it because it has a subterranean lower level that lets visitors out at the bottom of the deepest dry moat in Europe. It still has a working drawbridge and the oldest parts of the trogloditic fortress date from the 1060s. The upper rooms of the castle aren't as furnished as Chenonceau or Chambord, but the lower levels still have the wine barrels and cooking tools from centuries ago, and you can buy fine Saumur wines from the cellars.