Thursday, November 30, 2006

THE KING'S HEIR by Monya Clayton

(A writing assignment where a change of words would have changed history.)

Henry Tudor VIII paced the Turkey carpet outside the birthing room at Greenwich Palace. Inside the room his wife, attended anxiously by physicians, midwives and ladies in waiting, was in labour.

The King was understandably restless. The queen had already produced a healthy babe, a girl. He was fond of the child, but he did not wish on England the disaster of a female monarch.

He brooded as he paced the hall. Every courtier saw the thunder on his brow and none dared speak to him, not even his chief minister. They all knew he had paid attentions to other women, but equally all knew that he could not take another wife while this one lived. But he must have sons, living sons.

“Your Majesty!” The court physician left the birthing room, entered the hall, and bowed before the King.

Henry glared at him. Here it comes, he thought, God has cursed me again. A dead babe, a frail babe, or another healthy girl. He scowled horribly. “Well? Speak!” The physician’s face was merely tired.

The man smiled gravely. “Your majesty, it is a son. A healthy boy!”

The King stared, then bellowed his pleasure. He did not ask after Catherine of Aragon, whom he had once loved and who had finally done her duty by him. Now he need not bed her ever again, and any children born to his mistresses would remain bastards. “God be praised! A son! He shall be the ninth Henry!”

The courtiers broke into smiles, and his chief minister Wolsey at least wiped his brow with a relieved hand. Henry called for wine and sweetmeats, ordered church bells rung, celebration in London and all of England.

He gulped the wine when it was handed him in a gold goblet, toasted the heir, laughed uproariously in sheer triumph. Now he also had done his duty. England would not suffer the fate of being ruled by his daughter Mary.

MONYA CLAYTON © 16/10/06

BIG TOE by Monya Clayton

(This monthly assignment was to choose from a number of unfamiliar topics and perhaps research them and produce poetry or prose. Topics included: Aurora Australis, Hannibal, Angkhor Wat, Big Toe, Big Ben (i.e. the mechanicism in the Tower of Westminister), cold fusion, Boerwurst sausage. Monya bravely incorporated them all!)

Aurora’s pale dawn light
slips beneath the bedroom blind –
and ah! Big toe, I see you,
sticking out from under the blanket.
She catches you in a sunbeam
and as I’m half sleeping still
I envision you, silhouetted against the built-ins,
as a noble monolith,
much bigger than you really are.

What do you look like?
Pink and white with a crooked nail,
shaped by my mother’s genes -
No. Something more interesting?
A round of yummy Boerswurst sausage –
for Hannibal Lecter the cannibal?
No thanks.

No, much nobler! You’re white on top -
Thanks to poor circulation -
Like a snow-capped mountain.
An alp, no less! A mountain climbed by
Hannibal the general of Carthage
when he marched over the Alps to battle with Rome. Elephants went with him,
dragging their poor tropical toes in the snow.
I can see them all, descending the pass between
my big and second toes…

Or maybe you’re the tower of the great clock of Westminster
that boasts the bell of Big Ben.

Or, speaking of towers, perhaps you’re
a carved sandstone tower
lording it high over the temple of Angkhor Wat.
Or one of the towers of its city Angkhor Thom –
capital of the Khmer kings of Cambodia.

Then Aurora touches big toe
with her chill white hand.
It remembers it has arthritis,
clamps over its fellows in cold fusion,
and cowardly, with all its imaginations dispersed,
hides back beneath the blankets…

Alas! All glory gone.
My big toe is nothing but a toe.

© MONYA CLAYTON - 21/8/2006