Your Scholarly Beard

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

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.