"So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen."
Esther 2:17 NIV
a dirty word, queen.
a formality, really--
most little girls find out eventually that
crowns are only euphemisms for what everyone gossips about
and no one sees:
that which he did to me, that which i did to myself
i am painted over like one of his royal teacups
or the purloined stone from his bitter conquests,
the seams of my gown: perfect
as is how the light strokes
my tresses, cream flushes my pores,
my eyes radiating heat like a tiger’s.
growing up, dust crowded the hollows
of my elbows, rimmed the lips of my eyes
another name engraved into mine, so that
i forgot who i was but she was always there,
living in the marrow: clawing to the surface
the unseen girl screaming like hurricane against glass
don’t get me wrong:
i have no father.
my mother’s locket raps the cavity of my chest.
everyone knows it is better to have left one’s daughter
a girl than a queen.
but what they didn’t expect:
each day’s foul a gift,
teaching me to harden
in love for my enemies.
soften their blows with gentleness.
a cousin who fed me, raised me in
the fields. trained me to embrace separation
as birthright, ancestral erasure as folly,
holiness as a kind of illicit decadence
only we are permitted to indulge in.
indulgent. untouchable. me.
my foreign name, another chain.
beautiful, he calls me, the syllables a caress
and a weapon. little does he know
of the so-called blemish
beneath my marble surface,
a femme fatale writhing in each sinew
of my kidnapped body.
little does he know that i too can do violence.
the gossip is deafening.
where do her loyalties lie?
what does her royal veil conceal?
for whom will she remain silent?
only God knows.
and me? each day begets its own
suicide and i am no different.
an angel once slipped a message
under the crack of my door:
i make everything beautiful in its time
but oh, already i have ravished his kingdom,
absconded with his affections.
i whom his attendants adore, his betrayers curse
stand before him defiant
to receive what is due:
death, dignity, or both.
up to half my kingdom i shall grant you
who am i to command my destiny?
a word to say
is my purity so cheap to bargain
my voice so easily traded
o king, keeper of my flesh:
you may believe you possess
the whole of me but my limbs are but
a map of a promise, a prophecy of immortality
my soul eludes your probing fingers
the cries of my people indict you,
your crimes will one day greet your body
as you greeted mine.
you cannot contain me
one man’s curse is another woman’s triumph
my eyes glow because a fire is burning me pure again
exiled and exotic: i am beautiful i am beautiful i am beautiful
but you should know
that i am another’s too.
Marisa Lin began attending the River Church Community in late 2018. She is a recent graduate of Stanford University, where she was involved during all four years in InterVarsity's campus ministry. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the contours of language through poetry.