The government men have umbrellas,
and I’m sorry if that means you don’t
have anything to shield from the rain,
and they’re only harder to find on the market.
But the government men, you see, are me
– my shadows.
Their umbrellas are mine.
You may imagine a room full of them,
them and the black coats,
piled and draping maybe over the gilt and velvet furniture
that every dignitary has.
It’s a proper queen’s room:
window-seats washed in gray light,
the clink of my china cup paper-thin,
and the tea stiff and cold like my legs.
I think I can see you from here,
if I crane my neck.
You’ve been standing at the gate for a few years now,
clawing at the rampart once a week.
The rain masks the noises you make.
It’s really a shame that you have to wear that hat,
the floppy stocking like a placeholder in the tableau
with all the peasants.
Tapestries, so vast, really should depict more of you,
because I don’t think a unicorn will solve anything.
My pointy gold slippers click on the flagstones as I stand.
You’re at the door suddenly,
or maybe you’d been standing there for a time back,
and holding everything you own
in the form of a pitchfork.
What would you have of me?
Only words, it seems,
but I don’t need you to tell me
that the black umbrellas came and the children cried.
That’s their job,
just like this is mine and that is yours.
Your accusation is worse, almost, than assassination
because it lasts.
Oppressive governments are connected across historical periods. Though the narrative of this poem could occur in any Medieval kingdom, the characters are probably European; class and gender dynamics are in the foreground. Our canonical images of both Medieval and 20th Century politics largely ignore non-white people, and the poem does not stand alone as a critique of this.