The Knight of Wands
for Steve Parker
In the moments before he is to leave me, he pulls a card,
delighted to reveal the Knight of Wands, my protector,
he says through his betrayals. I am wary, I am ahead
of all partings. I am serious when I say I no longer trust
men with brown eyes, nor eyes of blue. It is then
his eyes seem to me, a first ocean, a blue-green algae
nest, where I seek shelter. There are stories we have lulled
each other with to get to sleep. I have explained
about mermaids, he has explained about Odysseus.
There are sirens that lure men into staying at sea for their
purpose. Men who tie themselves against rocks or pillars, and
are not summoned back to their poems. His ocean-wide eyes
have tricked me into believing in something more. His eyes
are another country. When he promises me the silence
of the place that he returns to, I am walking among ghosts.
He hands me the card and says “don’t lose this one.”
I save it under my mattress like an old-fashioned hoarder,
like a woman unconvinced of her own good fortune.
The Queen of Hearts Sets the Record Straight
All over-turned cards have the same pattern, how could
Alice pull one and have the right trump appear? Alice laid
the ground work with her tiles of affectation, how was
I to know that brat was a child and not a rival? Understand
the inertia of my passionless king. “Ach, ach, liebchen”
it sounded like he was clearing his throat, not wanting
my knickers to drop. My hero, always craving me and not
the spotlight, he was born purely milk-toast white, “pardon
her, pardon him, pardon pardon pardon”—the excuses
he made to be weak, to deliver his royal belch. Me?
I simply have no respect for mealy-mouthed men with dull
libidos. I have a country to run, you see? Croquet?
Now, finally you ask about things in the proper sequence.
The gryphon, the soldiers, no one, including him knows
their place. And her? She has a history of eavesdropping,
meddling without my permission. But back to his Royal
Nibs. Once, we loved passionately, young and foolish.
That man could get a hedgehog to just scramble through
my arches, and yes with full permission from me. Mind you
his small flamingo knew the way, and could open me up
like an umbrella the moment I said “yes” but our little
rounds are of no consequence to you. Fetishes? Well, that
is no commoner’s business either. Clearly, you all hail from
King’s Cross. Snooping, gossiping, stealing my thunder:
know I can make snow or the blade fall on your head
just by wishing it. Friend, what would you rather be?
A white plastic pawn slightly anemic, dyspeptic—
no gumption, just like my husband. Why, you and Alice think
you hold all the cards. After all, I’ve gotten both a King
and one-eyed Jack to tremble under my shuffle.
© Laurie Byro
Laurie Byro’s short stories and poetry have appeared in dozens of presses including Loch Raven Review, The Literary Review, Triggerfish, Snakeskin, Redactions, Chaminade Review, Chronogram, Grasslimb, Real Journal, The New Jersey Journal of Poets, Red Rock Review, The Paterson Literary Review, and the 7th Quarry (Wales). She has won or been placed in 39 Interboard Poetry Contest (IBPC) competitions. In January 2011, Laurie was named one of the “Poets of the Decade” by the IBPC competition for her 2000–2010 work, amassing more awards than any other competing poet. Her work was recently published in The Poetry of Place Anthology and Vincent Van Gogh-Go. Her children’s poem “A Captain’s Cat” appeared in Cricket Magazine and a textbook Measuring up to the Illinois Learning Standards. Her chapbook The Bird Artists was published in 2009. Laurie was Poet Laureate of Allendale, New Jersey from 2009 to 2013. Her work draws on myth and fairytale and her experiences of foreign places in the years she worked as a travel agent. Her poetry insists upon the continuing importance of fantasy, mystery, and “the other” in our lives. Laurie has been facilitating Circle of Voices poetry discussion in New Jersey for over 15 years.