Jan/Feb 2018 Poetry Special Feature

I Confide in Lucrezia Borgia about My Divorce

by Jennifer Finstrom

Textile Photo Art by Jeffrey Trespel

Textile Photo Art by Jeffrey Trespel

I Confide in Lucrezia Borgia about My Divorce

"Victor Hugo, author of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, did much to popularize this image with his 1833 play Lucrezia Borgia, in which the pope's daughter ponders the various ways she will dispatch her rivals: by hanging, strangling, or poisoning a communion wafer." —"Lucrezia Borgia: Predator or Pawn?" National Geographic History Magazine

She tells me the names of her three husbands
and their fates though I already know
that Giovanni Sforza was first, followed
by the two Alfonsos. Annulment and death
loom large here, but I'm more interested

in the difference between how the world
sees her and how she sees herself. The hollow
ring allegedly filled with poison might
have housed a holy relic or perfume
beneath the hinged bezel instead.

I'm about to ask her what I'm still asking myself
when a small shape darts across the floor,
a portent of who knows what, the brown mouse
I've seen once previously. I've spent a duke's
ransom already on pouches of balsam

and peppermint, scents that will supposedly
drive it into a neighbor's apartment or all
the way to the sidewalk eight floors down.
Years ago, my ex-husband insisted on dropping
open packets of poison into the sliver

of space behind the stove and refrigerator,
and I let him. Bored by my talk of mice
and the ways I'm not killing them, she vanishes,
and I don't ever learn the truth about those rumors.
I'm left still wondering if she loved

one of her husbands, all of them, or none.


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