The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Juliana Gray’s “Anne Boleyn’s Sleeve”

Juliana Gray


It began with a touch. It began with two bodies.
And so, it is a very old story.
Breath, flesh, the hot blood beneath
the skin–

                 At court, so much of a woman’s body
is public. Anyone may take her hand,
clutch her waist in a dance, run his thumb
along her spine, steal a lock of hair–
small intrusions they name courtesy.
We tightened corsets, presented upthrust bosoms
like coats of arms. Even Katherine,
when she was Queen, was not assessed as woman,
but like an aging broodmare, part by part.
Is she fertile? Was her maidenhead
intact when she and Henry wed? If not,
would she have known? What is the state of her womb?

How to tell the real from courtly game?
Ladies, look sharp. Listen to your blood.
I was carrying something, a bundle of silk
for Katherine’s sewing, when he stepped out to me
He moved close, to take the costly burden
from my arms. Holding fast my gaze
within his own, he slipped two fingers
inside my sleeve and lightly– as light as wind
loosing petals from a rose– stroked
the pulsing skin of my wrist. A moment, two.
We bore the silk to the chambers of the Queen.

This selection comes from Juliana Gray’s chapbook Anne Boleyn’s Sleeve, available from Winged City Press. Purchase your copy here!

Juliana Gray is the author of the poetry collections Roleplay and Anne Boleyn’s Sleeve, which won the 2013 Winged City Chapbook Press poetry chapbook contest.  Recent poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from PMS: poemmemoirstory, Tupelo Quarterly, Unsplendid, and elsewhere.  An Alabama native, she lives in western New York and is an associate professor of English at Alfred University.

Margaret Bashaar’s poetry has been previously collected into two chapbooks, Letters from Room 27 of the Grand Midway Hotel (Blood Pudding Press) and Barefoot and Listening (Tilt Press), as well as in many literary journals and anthologies including Rhino, Caketrain, New South, Copper Nickel, and Time You Let Me In. She lives in Pittsburgh where she edits the chapbook press Hyacinth Girl Press and is a staff writer for Luna Luna Magazine. Her debut collection, Stationed at the Gateway, will be published by Sundress in 2015.


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