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

Juliana Gray


A week might pass without a word, and then
I would be seized, pulled behind an arras
and kissed as if he sought to smother me.
Passing by in company, he’d nod,
greet me courteously, and let his hand
brush my skirt as if by accident.
His hands– I studied them, keeping my eyes
downcast in modesty– how brown and strong!
How well they fit around my waist in a dance,
the only time when I could meet his eyes,
imagining myself the golden flame
that sparked within them. I could not get enough
of dancing! His touch, his face, his legs sleek
and stallion-strong, his breath upon my neck.
An entire year, we loved in secret, wild
to marry, to fill the halls with English sons.
That year, I felt alive at every step,
at every pulse of my body’s quickening blood.

But that’s a lie– at court, there are no secrets.
Though Henry’s troubled soul, he said, was cause
to seek divorce; though Wolsey nourished talk
of French princesses; despite these tales,
I saw how Katherine bit her sallow cheeks
when I was near. Mary smirked, and George
recalculated his worth with every note
that he delivered. The truth; a lie; no matter.
That year, we burned and suffered, fever-struck,
concealing our contagion, blazing bright
where every eye pretended not to see.

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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