From The Impresario (part nineteen)
She rubs her cheeks and neck, not for cold
If the night feels chill, to her this trial seems welcome
She wishes she might bear the world’s pain
Enduring all, if by some alchemy
He might bide in warmth and tender sleep
She slips onto her knees, and bowing over
Clenched hands, she prays, “Oh, God!
Why should I now receive this grace?
What is it that you want of me?”
She cannot feel a trace of blemished skin
Recalls how her good lady taught her this
“None in our world of sorrows, child, stands so low
She does not tower in fortune above a lesser.
Who never hope to touch a bishop’s robe,
may touch, by the Savior’s love, the hand of a blessèd sufferer.”
Yes, I have tried not to know what I know well
That combat’s issue must be one man’s death
Pierre’s face of irony so bitter, comes to her
She sees his willing heart noble beyond measure—
Understanding him at last
But it will not do
The vintner’s house offers no looking-glass
So by her shadow’s length at dawn she judges
The ruse will be enough, for that she must contrive
Is only to fall against a knife
And this, she tells herself, is not so much
Tortu speaks one of his rare words
She is aware, now wakeful, that some talk
had filled the hours of darkness.
“My daughter,” says the vintner, “I have one thing more
to confess. I had climbed the stairs, hoping to look upon your face.
You will forgive me, I found you on your knees.
Your servant tells me…”
“Ah, Tortu is my dear friend, Monsieur. I am myself a servant.”
“Tortu tells me I must ask, and so I do. What heartache is it troubles you?”
He has schooled her in her alphabet. Tortu’s hand traces in air
Behind their host where he cannot see, a letter P
By this to mean, do as Pierre would have you
“Love.” Regalus takes a chair.
(2017, Stephanie Foster)