Robert Olen Butler

      Walter Raleigh, courtier and explorer, beheaded by King James I, 1618

Bess my dear old queen my Elizabeth her lips brittle her body smelling sharply beneath
            the clove and cinnamon from her pomander she lies next to me in the dark still
            besmocked though the night is warm and she has asked me here at last and I am
            masted for her and her bedchamber is black as pitch so she is but a shadow no
            torch she cried as I entered upon pain of death and now we are arranged thus
            my own nakedness perhaps too quick she says call your new-found land the
            place of the virgin, Virginia, to honor my lifelong state and I flinch but her
            smock does rise and I find the mouth of her Amazon her long fingers scrawling
            upon my back a history of the world oh sir oh sir you have found the city of
            gold at last she says, knowing me well this fills my sails the jungles of ancient
            lands are mine my queen oh swisser swatter she cries and falls away and I lie
            beside her staring into the dark, and I am sated certainly, but the moment calls for
            some new thing, and I say wait, my queen and I am out her door to the nearest
            torch and I have already prepared the treasure from my new world, this sweet
            sotweed this tobacco, and I sail back and slip in beside her and we sit and we

Robert Olen Butler, Severance: Stories, Chronicle Books, 2006.