History by Stephen Dunn
History by Stephen Dunn stories

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It’s like this, the king marries a commoner, and the populace cheers.
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History by Stephen Dunn

by ________

It’s like this, the king marries

a commoner, and the populace cheers.

She doesn’t even know how to curtsy,

but he loves her manners in bed.

Why doesn’t the king do what his father did,

the king’s mother wonders—

those peasant girls brought in

through that secret entrance, that’s how

a kingdom works best. But marriage!

The king’s mother won’t come out

of her room, and a strange democracy

radiates throughout the land,

which causes widespread dreaming,

a general hopefulness. This is,

of course, how people get hurt,

how history gets its ziggy shape.

The king locks his wife in the tower

because she’s begun to ride

her horse far into the woods.

How unqueenly to come back

to the castle like that,

so sweaty and flushed. The only answer,

his mother decides, is stricter rules—

no whispering in the corridors,

no gaiety in the fields.

The king announces his wife is very tired

and has decided to lie down,

and issues an edict that all things yours

are once again his.

This is the kind of law

history loves, which contains

its own demise. The villagers conspire

for years, waiting for the right time,

which never arrives. There’s only

that one person, not exactly brave,

but too unhappy to be reasonable,

who crosses the moat, scales the walls.

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