The Mummified Head of France’s King Henri IV: April 2015 PAD Chapbook Challenge, Day 23

The mummified head of France’s King Henri IV was lost after the French Revolution until a few years ago, when it showed up in a tax collector’s attic.

— Mental Floss, “10 Facial Reconstructions of Famous Historical Figures”

Why was your head in the attic,
and why did you smell like
“garlic, feet and armpits” —
enough that this fact would
go down in history? Maybe
you had bigger fish to fry
than a modicum of bathing.
Maybe you were busy being
a good king, dancing at
the peasants’ garlic feast,
waving your arms and making
various proclamations as
your feet strained against
your stockings. I confess
I don’t know much about you
other than your stink
and your mummified head.
I guess that’s what
a life comes down to:
Some idiot like me
writes a poem like this,
ignores the fact of
your murder by zealots,
whatever it is you tried
to do with your time, and
whatever put the twinkle
in your reconstructed eye.



Often when I make a mistake,
I imagine that I am in some
mod French movie (oh, sorry—
film) where the action screeches
to a halt, and over everything
is superimposed the word
GAFFE! It helps

to make my mistake
more glamorous, not an
ugly smallness, but a gaffe,
something worthy of notice
by, say, a poodle or an old man
in a striped boatneck sweater.
(I am trafficking in stereotype
here, but this is my fantasy.
Am I not allowed?)

Gaffes are not the end
of the world if they mean
I can retreat for a moment
into this faux French scene
of cafés and umbrellas
where I am not

the worst person
who ever lived, but
just another poor
être humain

stumbling on
cobbled streets
in the rain of
my error.


For NaBloPoMo and PAD Challenge, Day 10 (prompt: a poem with a foreign word in it).