the songster slave to my lady who’s free
as a bird to chirp back as she likes. It suits me.
The love-chains that bind us were forged in my fire.
I live for what’s not mine with proxy desire.
But I would His Lordship wasn’t so complaisant.
I was honoured when my cooing had me chastened,
and sent to the mountains to cool off minding sheep.
Now he trusts me too much. And I’m earning my keep
composing courtly love poems on his behalf,
chanting them as my own. I can still hear her laugh,
and His Lordship joins in, ‘Faith, a dashing young blade
couldn’t have made that sing. I’d give it to your maid’.
The Sainted Troubadour
I presented her a rose.
And she put it to her nose
and sniffed at it, while tearing
the petals off - not caring
to look at me - one by one,
until the flower had become
a tuft of seed on a stem.
I’m stripped to the bone.
she threw it at me, my grab
fell upon thorns with a stab
that drew blood and her laughter,
‘Now you’ve got the stigmata’.
And before I could bless her
she was off to, I guess, her
Lordship whose back from a ride.
While I lick my wounded pride.
Ode to A Generous Woman
My lover is dining with her next.
And it is her husband that is vexed
for he has become quite used to me
and wants to keep it in the family.
I’m faithful in my fashion to him
And he regards me as kith and kin,
a poor relation who needs a home.
I’ve made the servant’s attic my own.
‘You keep the home fires burning’, he said.
And sleeps soundly in the master-bed,
dreaming of marital bliss by proxy,
for he’s still in love with the doxy.
Not least because she’s a free spirit,
who needs two slaves. And we go with it.
Serving her is our life in toto.
Half household goddess, half ex-voto.
But alas she wants to take flight now
on wings not clipped by the marriage vow.
And I’m the chavalier servante
who has been unhorsed. It’s pure Dante.
The circle I share with her husband
is a cold place. But we won’t be unmanned.
Our plan is not to fall on our knees
before her, but to tempt the new squeeze
with residential rights, his own plate,
a pension when past his sell-by date,
Still will a string quartet be enough
to satisfy her demand for love?
Or a brass-band or a male voice choir?
There is no limit to the desire
of our capricious Maestra.
We’ll have to house a full orchestra.
The Troubadour’s Three Graces
For Del, Suzanne and Anne
I am in love with the Three Graces, all of them.
My passion’s multiple as an army of men
sweeping all before it with bagpipe-lead brass-bands.
I leave their singularity to their husbands.
I must admit impediments when it’s three hearts.
But if one holds the sum is greater than its parts
being true to the whole harmonises fidelity.
There’s not a false note between us. All’s middle C.
Still to embrace the Graces calls for a wing span
more sweeping that even a multifarious man
can encompass. And so, fancy’s flights don’t go too far,
I keep my feet on the ground and reach for their star.
But it’s way beyond me in a heavenly sphere
where my coup de grace wouldn’t get anywhere near
the planet of friendship and mutual support.
My kite comes down to earth. It’s only a sport.
Now I’ll sit at their feet with my troubadour’s lute
to sing them this poem, and award them the fruit
as equals without equal. And, to their relief,
I’ll stay on to listen till it’s point aperitif.
Then I’ll transport them home to their families
and whisper sweet nothings under their balconies,
waiting to see lights-off and the downing of the blinds.
It’s only in dreams there’s a marriage of four minds.
Most men’s egos are fragile.
Women have to use their guile
not to break them with a smile.
Their egos must be as tough
as old boots. Marrying love,
what they get is men’s stuff.
That said, there’s an overlap
between genders so the gap
claimed above could be claptrap.
Me, I’ve a petite nature,
the French for being unsure
of whether you are mature
enough to stand on the ground
that’s moving under you. La ronde
can be the other way around.
Women are not all the same,
nor men, despite what they claim
when apportioning blame
Yes. The war of the sexes
is phony, and what vexes
one or the other gets it.
The weakness that’s in common
is that temptation nomen
d’amour, truly a demon.
Troubadour Poisoned by Cupid’s dart
What’s d’amour, a passing passion,
wearing badly as last year’s fashion.
All’s left is what the children pass on.
And, if they’re none, what memories gas on.
It said, hate is faithful to the end.
But also remaining a good friend.
Complicity’s bows are made to bend
not break; and arrows in the air suspend.
Its friendly fire misses the heart
to make it grow fonder. That’s a start.
A coup de foudre with Cupid’s dart
is followed by thunder’s late alert.
The golden point that inspires desire
from habitude loses its fire.
The alchemy reverse is dire.
It turns to lead and, alas, ire.
All that glitters loses its shine.
A made-match often improves with time.
And comes in handy when you’re dying.
Love’s more likely to end in a crime.
Après Charles Simic
La femme que J’adore est une sainte
qui mérite bien que les gens
tombent sur leurs genoux dans la rue
en implorant une benediction.
Mais, la voilà sur le sol,
frappant une souris avec sa chaussure,
alors que les larmes coulent sur son visage.