The Late Queen’s Jester

Alex Smith

Crookback, I sit
at the great bay window

swinging a pig’s bladder
from a stick – a severed head

condemned to lightness.
I’m muddled, addled, a mad egg.

Pick, peck, pick – purple-black,
I count mussel-coloured elytra,

beetle my brain into shards,
listen to nocturnal insect taps,

tick, tick, tap.
Laughter turns to cackle.

Whistle and jibe, whistle and jibe . . .
didn’t want for a kickie-wickie,

bumpy-bed. Halls filter their ghosts,
sudden draughts swirl in corners.

The deaths heap up, fold us in silence.
A caul of time stretches over their lives.

Drove and drive, duck and dive –
light blades her soft pelisse

still hung from its rack, a dusty grey
as though a heron watched me there.

They’ve burned her gingie wigs
I used to mock – she’d beard me for it

and I’d offer to snatch her gingie
in return, for which my ears were boxed.

She would sometimes receive me
in her shift.