They spill poems like banners
cascading from windows, bed sheets
of the domna

the lord’s wife, the damsel,
employers of love and song, priests
recruit these poets
who flee their lady’s chamber at daybreak

stone castles, cathedrals, fortresses
too hard, altogether dark age all
but for the troubadours,
feather boas flung with chain mail.

Escape how?
The crusades of our time
galvanized with poems, cansos
confused, “no, it was never that…”

Marching iron, screeching armour, sick songs, the age
fades and the troubadour stutters,
snaps the lute’s guts

“I was only ever singing of a lady…”


And the she-poet sings
from the gut of her heart
through the echo of her hallway
hallway chasing down
some shadow cast and lost

And whose bed tomorrow?
“I don’t care,” she says, “but tell me.”

Remember the game: why we sing
the wing of my youth, falling

Lady I am, I lean on the turret
lands mine, the valleys

Rolling and laughing
like lovers, cast and lost

And the she-poet grows muscle
only to don and shed her armour in a heartbeat
through the echo of her chamber
some wind, open doors, windows
some shadow billowing, yours, maybe, his

“Listen,” she says, “my sobs are singing.
But why can’t I sing when I cry?”


the eyes in the rosebush
guarding your pleasure
the warning whistle when
her husband approaches

best friend, paid in promises
red-eyed come dawn
he’s been up all night
imagining when you’ll watch for him

spring in your step
but the sentry sags
you tell him just enough
to know his trouble’s worth

the bonds of the ale hall
recoil at the sight of the sentry
and his friend, for the sentry
loves his friend’s love

and in the courts the ladies
gush and glow at this nobility
what’s jousting compared
to the sentry’s devotion?

then the knights know the night
as the sentries once knew


The green of your tunic
blinded me, Sir, what a green!

The spring trees seemed pale
and I like a hen, I’m sure

My duties in the orchard
I perform with gravity

But the wind that day
all apples and lilacs

What came over me
when the thunder of hooves approached?

And to be honest, Sir,
I never even looked at your face –

But the impossible green of your tunic
put feathers in my skirt

Dismounting your horse, Sir,
I’d never thought to sit

in the turf behind the raspberry bushes
out of sight, gurgling birds, the brook

and one apple dropped, the blossom and all
your teeth marks then mine revealing

the flesh and yes, Sir, thank you, Sir
you gave me your tunic to keep.


I didn’t die here, but lived
when the cellars sprouted banquet halls.
The Count of Toulouse swung the axe in 1165 or 66
But the stump stands

My mother, father and servants slaughtered.
I learned a new home in the West
And when I forgot to forget
I left, poor and noble

Melodies make money, I learned
And love, too, my good looks
helped, but mostly my pain.
My fingers grew branches, I played

for those who’d forgotten to feel
and how we’d laugh in new halls
our voices booming and multiplying
in the vaults of found youth

And when that fountain dried
I sought and found a new order
One in which I took my place
In the quietly dying monastery

Unburdened, then, by body or honour
I returned to the stump
Glorious and shadowed this root
The stains of wine and blood, fading