This week we have a historical poem by Stephanie Kasheta, whose style is meant to mimic that of C. P. Cavafy.
Kasheta’s piece is from the perspective of Juana “The Mad,” the daughter of Queen Isabella I of Castille and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. The power in this poem is its ability to capture the voice of a repressed historical figure; it is easy to see why the piece holds a quiet power over its readers.
Spain Abandons Juana
At dawn comes a visitation to the Convent of Santa Clara
You see the flags lining your old processions—
fabrics billowing, just outside the window
you’ve succumbed to: a barren street you’ll not walk down
amongst the people who’ve forgotten you.
And it wasn’t the failure of the life you’d planned
but the triumph of Philip and Ferdinand.
The compacts made in secret meetings
on streets you’re losing the smells of.
The open window is crueler
than your father and husband.
You whip yourself in looking through it.
Atoning for the past lives that brought you here
To suffer in the gardens of Alhambra,
where no footsteps came to see you off to Lier.
Here, in your place, overlooking the street
where voices heft themselves against your ears.
Ears deafened in the perpetual clack of hooves underfoot,
the swish of tassells on white horses once ridden
Through a humbled crowd— your people.
This piece, powerful on its own, is made even richer by the complex history behind it. Woven through the retold lives of several monarchs, this poem makes them come alive again.
Make sure to come by next week for another incredible piece!