The Winter’s Tale Sequence — Bailey Blumenstock

Hermione on trial

There is an insect in the castle that hid from me
until I walked to my husband’s court.
It stood on the parapet, watching:
crawled on the altar, watching.
A water bug still oily from Leontes’ bath.

My husband bathes in fire-ants. They bite
him. He paid an oracle to scry
my heart, to boil my body and drink its tea.

Now, my son is dead. Leontes is on his knees
in the parlour. He will build a box for the ashes
out of his wishing for our daughter.
Tomorrow, Paulina will crush beetles and fill a jar.
She will give it to my husband with a spoon and say: “eat her,
Then she will be gone.”

Hermione in mourning

Upon the birth of my daughter,
my women brought me gifts
of willow and iron. While the
baby slept upon my breast, I imagined
the bark braided into clasping
hands, bound at the wrist. In prison,
the ship can only be a dream.
Paulina tells me I am to die, that my
husband, the King, has cursed me
traitor, that my daughter and son
will die, too. And then, with arms like matches
she weaves the coracle, fashions it
a handle, a crinoline canopy, lines
it with a nest of cloth. My daughter
was Perdita then, pink as morning,
sheathed in fleece, and the last I saw of her,
before she would alight somewhere
strange and green. Here she will coo
softly while Antigonus, servant to the King
but loyal to his wife, will bleed quietly
into the warm mud, until the bear pursues him
eats him, and
he too, is gone.

Hermione on fire

I was wed by Apollo,
the sun the only witness to the way he
touched me where Leontes could not reach.

I was fucked by Apollo: white-blonde,
summer-hot, pricking sharp
I was wed by Apollo.

Here lies Apollo: the boy-God
blazing in every doorway, singing
touching the king where I can not reach.

Hermione in madness

Heartrot blackens the tree outside my window
I climb its ladder of conks to the ground
The velvet heads hiss: Good Queen

I, Good Queen, follow my son downriver
to the cataract, holding my eyes in outstretched fists.
I, Good Queen, place my daughter in a boat of palms

Good Queen: I named my daughter Lost.
Good Queen: I did not see my son die,
only felt the tear and pull of severing
and now the canker, and now the damp

Hermione in waiting

I will know my daughter when I brush my hair,
stink of sweat, burst pimples on my chest.
There is a space between my breastbone

and my spine where something aches.
I reach in through my mouth
and feel the ragged edges,

the red maw of flesh exact
as a migraine.

My heart
still flickers and beats.

The room I’ve chosen is painted
cornflower blue: there is a mirror, there is a chair, there is a vase.
There is a window. Snow falls.

I think it is still winter.

Bailey Blumenstock is a second-year Creative Writing MFA candidate at American University in Washington, DC. She can be found at @baileybluming