Poetry

Mrs Gawain

With apologies to Carol Ann Duffy, whose collection The World’s Wife inspired this.

He learned the lesson all right:
give the woman what she wants.

Sovereignty? He made me a goddamn queen
so far above him he wouldn’t fuck me anyway.
Beautiful or ugly, with him I’d spend my nights alone.
I left him for it, and people ask

Why?
He’s a knight. He’s handsome.
He gives you everything you want.

Because sometimes a woman wants most
a man who won’t just take her word
and walk away;
a man who understands
that I spent half my life ugly, untouched
unwanted.
It got hard to ask for anything
a conversation
a touch
a glance.
Let alone more.

I didn’t want to make all the decisions,
didn’t want to be his liege lady
the iron fist in a silk glove.
I just wanted a little give and take.
Sovereignty is a lie anyway when it comes to love.

What does every woman want?
Forget sovereignty
(though it’s nice to be in control of your body
your womb
and who you go to bed with)
it’s too complicated a word for a man.
Try compromise out instead.

I shacked up with Morgan Le Fay.
She’s a bitch but she knows when I mean what I say
and when she should push, ask again, make sure.


Notes: This poem is obviously a perspective on the story of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, inspired by Carol Ann Duffy’s collection of poetry The World’s Wife — a group of neglected and often angry women from myth and history, talking back. The title ‘Mrs Gawain’ directly links in with Duffy’s poems like ‘Mrs Faust’, ‘Mrs Darwin’, ‘Mrs Icarus’, etc.

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