The Next Duchess

(A response to Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess)


My name is to be replaced
with nine hundred years
A gift, he declares, but my heart
sinks along with it

And that is just fine,
says the messenger.
Keep it down, and hold it
up only when your face meets his.

I face the mirror every night since

to battle my eager smile
temper skin against a blush
chain in the laughter
inherent in my youth

and with it
all those frivolous desires
for fruit, pony rides,
and to be painted.

I face the mirror every night since

with all attempt to cut my smile down to size
to make room
for nine hundred years
and one man

down, down, down to size,
much too small for the duke’s wall
and never so large as to court

I face the mirror, cut me down to size,
as if alive, as if alive, as if alive

— Liyana Dizzy, 21

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