Blackbird an online journal of literature and the arts Spring 2008 Vol. 7 No. 1



Letter to N., Paris

Dear Monsieur,

I take thee for ambitious staging after the bailiff read the list,
how we gathered afterward for mock trials featuring Saturn

stamping his writ on a pig, & the old duke bowing with flourish
since he longed to be a playwright. How we laughed at Reason

pushed to a desperate rendezvous: a young jeweler screwing
a bald countess hoping for pregnancy, a transfer to cleaner

corridors & more time. I do give thee my hand stripping
my skirt into linen for a milliner miscarrying her first child,

my other hand groping my lover’s body smelling of urine
while he recited Montesquieu in my ear & spread my ass

in an ancien regime manner, bravado for the Carmelite Friars
Conciergerie where all awaited in sickness & health

Mme. Guillotine’s knitting crew. For speaking in tender riddles
to survive, for entreaties hidden in a pug’s collar, for my children

bribing the gate sentry to return that naughty lost dog,
for tarot cards dealt to a young marquis curious about peace

as if we could’ve forecasted our confinement or sudden release,
I do promise to cultivate & obey favors we both may require

should the Directory collapse in a tub of oatmeal water
& vow to introduce you to the probable replacement’s likes

to increase your impression. For richer or poorer, I ally myself,
General, to your talents to blast infantries & influence warrants

issued on rumor & will destroy documents, even this one, that betray
my heart. You will never doubt my role till death do us part

performed with the subtlest timing every name you bestow me
though so help me God, I am Rose Tascher de Beauharnais &

by your most kind invitation,
I am Josephine

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