Queen Mary stopped bathing
after her first miscarriage. She refused
to change her bedding, damp
with the wetness of labor and loss.
It was a compromise, at least,
to air them out to dry. They hung
like huge watercolor paintings
on the trees, plumes of sweat, blood,
the spill of what did not come.
By her seventh, the chambermaids
began wearing scented scarves
around their faces. The Queen’s nightgown
now stuck to her belly and thighs,
stiff, more red than white. She seemed
always pregnant and always not.
The ladies-in-waiting were
not foolish. They understood.
If a man were to see the Queen, soiled,
pacing ghostlike, no woman
would wear the crown again.
They pulled down the curtains
and bed canopy, measured their bodies
by lying like dead angels on the floor.
Twelve matching house coats, adorned
with pillow tassels and petticoat lace.
Under one, a stained nightgown.
A tapestry of grief.