“Inevitably, She Declined,” by Lucie Brock-Broido, appeared in the Winter 1991 issue of MQR.
On a bishop’s backless chair, inevitably, upright she declined
Watching an empire flicker & die out. Morning, an anodyne
Of undrugged sleep, her attendant files the wedding ring
In her flesh for half a century, an unhinged sapphire unmarrying
A monarch to this life of beautiful bastard sovereignty,
England’s bloated hand. By evening an heirless country waits to
A distended queen with hawthorn boughs, bonfires blazing
Letters in the streets. She will go on watching them, upright &
When Elizabeth sat dying, she would not lie down, for fear
She would never rise again, her high neck propped with
Of lace, circling a countenance decked with the small queer
Embellishments of monarchy. In a breathless hour, her virguled
Breath, a speechless pilgrim grateful for a little death, miniscule
Between moments, squall of air reclining, upright bolt, declining
Image: van der Meulen, Steven. “The Hampden Portrait.” Circa 1563. Oil on canvas. Private collection.