The moat simmers at 210°. From his tower the king watches, pleased, as a swallow tries to land on the water, squawks & flies off. He believes in setting a good example. O the flesh is hot but the heart is cold, you’ll be alone when you are old, his favorite country song—on repeat—is being piped through the palace. Downstairs in the dining room, the princesses gaze out the window at a flock of pigeons turning pink then black as they fly in & out of the sunset. The princesses put down their spoons & sigh. Baked Alaska for dessert again. The flambée lights up their downcast faces. In the fireplace, dry ice sizzles didactically. When dinner is over, they return to their wing of the palace, The Right Ventricle. On a good day, they can play Hearts for a few hours before they hear the king’s dactyllic footsteps (dámn the queen, dámn the queen) coming down the aorta & have to hide the cards. They aren’t allowed to adore him, so they don’t, just allow his inspections—checking their eyes for stars, their journals for heated confessions. Because he is a literal man, he never finds anything. But that night, when he’s gone, the princesses tiptoe down to the palace freezer. Sticking their fingers in sockets is no longer enough. Amongst the frozen slabs of beef, they sit in a circle on blocks of ice & watch the red fade from their lips and fingers, the frost on the floor creep up the heels of their shoes. Finally when the skin is numb, the heat starts retreating into their hearts & they can feel it—love, love, love.


Poem by Matthea Harvey. Originally appeared in Insurance.

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