History: A Poem

History‘, a poem by Stephen Dunn seems to adroitly capture political Pakistan. No? And since March is women’s month, a nod to the King’s Ami Jaan whom many other mothers will say is irreproachable in her approach–good, respectable, decent lady, she knows she’s the King’s business and the rest are only pleasure, she knows when to take to her room in queenly style (unlike that unqueenly, baigareth daughter-in-law of her’s), and when to emerge to give a suggestion that makes life more palatable to royal taste though not better for the people and in particular, you can bet, for the women. I like that Dunn leaves the ‘one person’ who will try to overthrow the system genderless: a man, sure, but that person ‘not exactly brave, but too unhappy to be reasonable’, that person could just as likely be a woman. Not the Queen though.


It’s like this, the king marries a commoner, and the populace cheers.She doesn’t even know how to curtsy,but he loves her manners in bed.

Why doesn’t the king do what his father did,

the king’s mother wonders—

those peasant girls brought in

through that secret entrance, that’s how

a kingdom works best. But marriage!

The king’s mother won’t come out

of her room, and a strange democracy

radiates throughout the land,

which causes widespread dreaming,

a general hopefulness. This is,

of course, how people get hurt,

how history gets its ziggy shape.

The king locks his wife in the tower

because she’s begun to ride

her horse far into the woods.

How unqueenly to come back

to the castle like that,

so sweaty and flushed. The only answer,

his mother decides, is stricter rules—

no whispering in the corridors,

no gaiety in the fields.

The king announces his wife is very tired

and has decided to lie down,

and issues an edict that all things yours

are once again his.

This is the kind of law

history loves, which contains

its own demise. The villagers conspire

for years, waiting for the right time,

which never arrives. There’s only

that one person, not exactly brave,

but too unhappy to be reasonable,

who crosses the moat, scales the walls.

by Stephen Dunn.