Godiva exposed

From Lady Godiva and Me

Leofric donates a reliquary to his new church at Coventry:
For services rendered, steadfast and loyal,
supporting our King in a raid on his mother,
the arm of a dead man, Augustine of Hippo:
definer of sins, rejecter of women.
God's gift my lovely, rarest of women,
companion and lover, councilor, friend,
who wakes in the dawn, in our bed, warm beside me,
as now and forever, together as one.
The arm of a dead man in a jewel spangled box
to place on your altar, to pay for your prayers,
for the peace of our souls, to keep her beside me,
to keep me from hell, for the service I rendered.
He slipped the robe from off my shoulders.
Unpinned my hair, as he did every night,
trembling hands, whispering 'later'.
But in broad daylight, in the market square.
From expectant alleyways the breeze came fumbling
fondling, fingering. So I mounted up and rode
into a dream of silent shuttered houses.
Like running widdershins around the church
I waited for an outraged God to strike me down
for flaunting breasts and pubic hair.
Until, one open window. Only one. A man's face
smiling, to prove my courage.
What only Tom saw:
The sound of hoof fall in the silence:
ice cracking; locks bursting
cobbles splitting: grass thrusting
shading the grey streets green.
The Sherbourne rising, spilling
fresh water sluicing through Cross Cheaping
roiling. Eels thrash and muscle
in her wake
ivy and mistletoe spring from house beams
flowering towards the light,
ash and oak and yew rooting the earth
sunlit spring sweeping the town.
Leofric, waiting:
You didn't ask me for the moon.
I would have wrapped the world
around your shoulders. Harrowed hell
or pillaged heaven but you assumed
I'd let you go, and trust you would return.
The hours between stretched
on the rack of your absence.
Amongst swift talking ladies' men
competing for your hand
fear shuffled in the silence.
Devotion didn't cut me from the crowd
and love's a cold and lonely place to stand.
Blinded by her passing,
Tom blinks the shadows from his room.
'Come in, sit down.' I have no chairs.
'Hungry?' We could share the one hacked wooden bowl
'You take the only spoon.' Watch out for splinters.

Numinous on the pile of rags he calls a bed,
her golden hair upon the coat he uses for a pillow?
Reflected in her beauty he can see
how heavy, sordid, rough-hewn his desire;
his ugliness, his lack of grace, his poverty of mind.

He will eat her at the plank he uses as a table
and kiss the shut eyes of her severed head.

Leofric in old age:
If my children, or their children
will not stand where I did,
weighing desire against consequence,
holding the middle ground when extremes clash;

If the wars I fought become their fairytales
the faith I bled for just fireside mythology;
if I bequeath wealth, titles, reputation
a physical resemblance, a family name

but if everything I valued they deny
in words or deeds or simply by default;
that were a bitter purgatory
no prayer could ease.

Liam GuilarQueensland poet Liam Guilar has published two collections of poetry and is the author of the online travel book Dancing With the Bear. The above poems and those previously published in Eureka Street are part of Lady Godiva and Me, which will be published in December by Ninearches Press.


Topic tags: new australian poems, liam guilar, lady godiva and me, leofric, godgifu



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