For Catherine: Juana, Infanta of Navarre by Erin Belieu
Ferdinand was systematic when he drove his daughter mad.
With a Casanova's careful art, he moved slowly, stole only one child at a time through tunnels specially dug behind the walls of her royal chamber, then paid the Duenna well to remember nothing but his appreciation.
Imagine how quietly the servants must have worked,
loosening the dirt, the muffled ring of pick-ends against the castle stone. The Duenna, one eye gauging the drugged girl's sleep, each night handing over another light parcel, another small body vanished through the mouth of a hole.
Once you were a daughter, too, then a wife and now the mother of a baby with a Spanish name.
Paloma, you call her, little dove; she sleeps in a room beyond you.
Your husband, too, works late, drinks too much at night, comes home lit, wanting sex and dinner. You feign sleep, shrunk in the corner of the queen-sized bed.
You've confessed, you can't feel things when they touch you;
take Prozac for depression, Ativan for the buzz. Drunk, you call your father who doesn't want to claim a ha!fsand-niggergrandkid. He says he never loved your mother.
No one remembers Juana; almost everything's forgotten in time,
and if I tell her story, it's only when guessing what she loved, what she dreamed about, the lost details of a life that barely survives history.
God and Latin, I suppose, what she loved. And dreams of mice pouring out from a hole. The Duenna, in spite of her black, widow's veil, leaning to kiss her, saying Juana, don't listen...