the museum of americana

a literary review

Questions from the Women for Dorothy, Wife of Richard Cantrell, Before the Grand Jury for Masking in Men’s Clothes, Walking, and Dancing at Nine O’Clock at Night, 1703 — Poetry by Kory Wells

 
1.
Silk waistcoat,
or wool?

2.
Are late nights a matter of
your constitution? How often
do you leave your chamber
to wander the silent house? In thin light
lean over your child and watch
the soft metronome of his chest?

3.
When your husband first saw you
in gentleman’s breeches,
where did his eyes linger?
At your slender hips,
bare of their usual hoops?
Or at the curve
of your stockinged calf?

4.
Have you welcomed always
his wind-chapped lips
at your clavicle?
Do his attentions
still make you sing
the soprano afternoons?

5.
Your gentleman’s suit
brilliant as the autumn hills—
have you ever believed
it’s the color of sin?

6.
Did the very anticipation
of the masquerade
increase your ardor
for your husband
of all these years?
Would you claim the same
for him?

7.
The lightness
of your dance step—
is it ballast
for those dark days
after infant Mary passed?
Or does it come from
your mother, herself
a woman prone to society?

8.
Did you tremble,
dancing in the arms
of another so masked?

9.
Was marrying out of church
your first step toward
debauchery?

10.
Do you believe your husband,
who spends his days
permeating clay with water,
waiting for the kiln’s hot
flourish, and building fair
Philadelphia block by block,
has never had the urge
to mold you
like one of his bricks?

11.
Was it your husband
or another
who whispered
wicked in your ear?
And did you not
take some measure of delight
in being named so?

12.
This offense that brings you before the court
of wigged men shaking
their heads in fashionable curls—
would you do it again?
 
 
~ ~ ~

Kory Wells is author of Heaven Was the Moon, poetry from March Street Press. In June 2017 she was selected the inaugural poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she also advocates for democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. Kory is a mentor with the low-residency program MTSU Write and curates a monthly reading and open mic event. Winner of the 2016 HeartWood Broadside Series, her work appears in Ascent, Poem, Stirring, Unsplendid, the Tennessee volume of The Southern Poetry Anthology, and other publications. Find her online at korywells.com.

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