Isolde Thinks of Tristan and his Wife: poetry

Margaret Lloyd


Women always want to know

how beautiful the other woman is—

the shape of her mouth,

how fine her wrists—

and simply, what happens day by day.

It does not matter if we know he loves us more

or that most nights he sleeps on stone outside the bedchamber.

We don’t want the truth from his mouth,

but without it, imagination does all the bitter work:

Tristan sails for pleasure with his wife,

the winds cold as they sweep across the water close to dusk.

He plays the harp for hours as he loves to play,

and she hears because she is there sitting in the high room.

Perhaps he smoothes her brow when her head aches.

Why wouldn’t he?

I do sleep in my husband’s bed

and feel my body stirring against my will.

For that time he has me.

This doesn’t happen often.

But it happens.

(Originally appeared in Dogwood 2002)

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