it’s complicated, these arranged royal marriages
with the age and language barriers, her long vowels
of Portuguese slapped into line by his guttural German.
She barely menstruating and his face nearly prehistoric,
pock marked with the fault lines of aging.
Nothing was certain except for syphilis,
not even an heir.
out their beautiful daughters untutored
as to what lurked under silk britches,
the bride-to-be strip searched
before being presented to court,
and any possible détente
dependent on boudoirs and bed sheets.
I’ll take the pleasures under your ermine cloak
any day over the obligation,
a twice weekly sex romp
by royal decree, when the king of Portugal
paraded past courtiers for relations
with a wife so detested her rooms
could have been in India.
Ceremoniously, they undressed
to white undergarments covering every centimeter
of skin save a cutout embellished
with a red crucifix blessing
where his royal member briefly entered.
Not me, no thank you,
I would never relinquish
the feel of your skin,
your body caressing me like those riotous
morning glories conquering
the fields outside Lisbon,
or how we taste like ripe figs,
or the creamy pasteis de natas
I have been gorging on
while in Portugal without you.
by Kathleen Willard
Kathleen Willard, MA Middlebury College, MFA Colorado State University, remembers her attendance at The Disquiet International Literary Program as a defining moment in her writing life. Forty of her poems have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies including: Bombay Gin, Matter, Proud to Be, and Landscape and Place. Her awards include a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship to travel and write in India, attendance at Vermont Studio Center twice, the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference twice, and her poem “Theory of Flight, Circa 1704” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, published in The Progenitor and won the ACC Writer's Studio Prize.