You’ve never been a scholar, but here in the Queen’s Library you dust the books with your beard and look as pleased as a pangolin. I’ve read some old chronicles of royals so rickety with greed they’re forever losing their heads in muddy London streets where the axe-man’s buddies stagger, befuddled with foamy brew. I’d pause to write an essay on prongs, tines, and other fine points of kingship. But the queen expects a tidy catalogue of titles she can pass to her successor without the blush that disfigured her ancestors and helped activate the Great War no one survived. Your beard’s a useful tool. The queen hates dust and other expressions of naked entropy. She admires beards because Grandpa sported a beard that dangled to his navel, which he confused with naval, his favorite if least relevant form of power. No more reading. The queen expects her catalogue in a week or so, and we’ve thousands of books to dust and describe, so wield your beard in your new scholarly manner and remember to curtsy when she offers you a knighthood.
William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.