A Once and Future Queen

by B. Lynne Zika

“I should not talk so much about myself
if there were anybody else I knew as well.”
                            —Henry David Thoreau

The pines thin as years pass, falling
not to axes to warm a hearth 
or heat a stove for morning bread
but to tractors, ripping away impediments 
to sweetly named clusters of fake brick or stone,
cluttered garages, sidewalks, 
a neighbor’s window 
pressed close enough to touch. 
Even in my glory days

I wouldn’t have chained myself to forklifts.
When all believe a thing is progress it can’t be stopped.
I would have planted trees instead; 
a weed can bring a highway to its knees.
Outside my door a bird whistles:
Maybe so, maybe so.
Buds populate all corners of the farm.
The tips of hydrangea and rosebush 
defy their winter shrouds. Daffodils
have come and gone. I ought to sow 

but the turf still grows thickly behind the barn, 
unturned by fingers gnarled now.
They once broke ground.
They planted 

and wiser heads than mine prophesied:
Never work, never work.
But I harvested corn.
I made a reader weep. I hate the tears
which plague women now grown old,
pitying ourselves for everything undone:
Too late, too late.
I knew a painter with failing sight,
and on the worst days she laid 
on her great-aunt’s tablecloth of white China silk 
squares of mustard-yellow satin, 
red flannel, turquoise crêpe-de-chine. 
Anyone could have named the artist.

The dead bug in the corner of my room
has nearly turned to dust. 
My pantry bows its head, too embarrassed
to hold its skinny self up to scrutiny.
I know my excuses; we’re intimate now:
I’ve been ill
under the weather 
on a diet 
out of town. The last is best.
While I was away a pandemic was born. 
I heard on the plane coming home 
that my local Walmart
offers seniors an undisturbed hour of shopping,
ensuring the giant’s public image 
but gaining very little money. 
We geezers are not apt to read fine print on cereal boxes
at six o’clock in the morning. There comes a time
to celebrate foresight, 
no matter how unintentioned. 
The night I flew home,
suitcases hauled in, taxi paid, 
I wandered to the kitchen
in search of local-only sustenance 
to mollify my culture shock
and lay my innards to rest.
’Twas like dancing with an orthopaedist
the day before you break your leg.
From the icebox I gorged on cornbread,
sweet milk,
an honest-to-god shot of moonshine 
flavored with peach 
and the inexorable clove—
a feast born to the purple
if I do say so myself.

Now, lying abed, 
I draw my purple robe around me.
Let them place a crown on my head
when hats no longer matter.
Thorns will do.
I won’t be here to complain.
But I’ll leave behind
all the vowels I have known
whispering faintly
She’s gone, she’s gone.

B. Lynne Zika’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary publications: Poetry East, Exquisite Corpse, The Anthology of American Poets, etc.  She has written for newspaper and radio and for trade and consumer magazines. In addition to editing poetry and nonfiction, she worked as a closed-captioning editor for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. She received a Pacificus Foundation Literary Award in short fiction, and her photography has received the Celebrity Award and the 2020 Choice Award from Viewbug. The photograph that accompanies the poem is her own.