They led you, blindfold, through the maze,
and left you, empty and alone â€“
and whispered as they walked away;
then later, to an injured throne
you neither spurned nor wished to claim,
as rival families, and Rome
and Cranmer played their deadly game;
at last, they led you to the dark,
your eyes wrapped in a fold again.
The giant axeman stands apart
until the drumbeat sounds, and prays
for kind precision in his task;
as unkind Delaroche betrays,
and â€“ licensed by your mask â€“ defiles
you with a practised, cowardâ€™s gaze,
caressing you with brushstrokes, while
your unlearned searching hands reveal
a nine days queen, and still a child.
Â© Phil Vernon
Picture 10424883, painting by Paul Delaroche, 1833, reproduction on a postcard, image copyright Mary Evans / Peter Higginbotham Collection
Phil lives with his wife Tebo in Kent in the UK, where he returned in 2004 after spending two decades in different parts of Africa. He works in the international humanitarian and peacebuilding field. His poems have appeared in magazines and websites. His version of Stabat Mater with music by Nicola Burnett Smith was performed at St Paulâ€™s Covent Garden in 2019. This Quieter Shore, a micro-collection, was published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2018, and a full collection Poetry After Auschwitz was published by Sentinel in 2020. Another collection, Watching the Moon Landing, is due from Hedgehog in 2021. www.philvernon.net/category/poetry.