“Marie Antoinette”

Queen of France, guillotined by order of the French Revolutionary Tribunal, 1793

softly on the arm he touches his wife and they hesitate in the dim corridor I a few steps behind holding tight to nurse’s petticoat and I know how never never again will I be present in a moment like this because there is always the great goose-flock of my brothers and sisters and always there are courtiers and ladies-in-waiting and I am but a little girl a little little girl with a lute I can play and satin shoes with such elegant thin soles I feel the cold stone on my toes and he touches his wife’s arm, he who is Emperor of Austria, King of Jerusalem, Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, and even more, that’s as far as I can remember, I am small as small can be I could crawl into the belly of my lute and stay there looking between the strings he touches his wife’s arm and he is my father and she is my mother, the Empress of Austria and Queen of Jerusalem and Hungary and so forth, and her skirts are bright and enormous I could live inside them and bring my three dogs and my pony too and all my clothes and the skirts are a problem for my father who has touched my mother’s arm because he leans far over far across them and nearly falls but she turns her face to him knowing he is her beloved and he kisses her

–reprinted with permission from the author

Robert Olen Butler

About Robert Olen Butler

Robert Olen Butler has published twelve novels—The Alleys of Eden,Sun Dogs, Countrymen of Bones, On Distant Ground, Wabash, The Deuce, They Whisper, The Deep Green Sea, Mr. Spaceman, Fair Warning, Hell and (forthcoming this August) A Small Hotel—and six volumes of short fiction—Tabloid Dreams, Had a Good Time,Severance, Intercourse, Weegee Stories, and A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, which won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Butler has published a volume of his lectures on the creative process, From Where You Dream, edited with an introduction by Janet Burroway.