poem eight: the day Lord Byron stopped by for a cup of Earl Grey

*Inspired by an old prompt from 2011 again. A literary figure shows up, tells you something, and gives you something. My visitor was Lord Byron, famously “mad, bad and dangerous to know” – only, not so much these days.

When sitting in front of blank pages
in the kitchen, I never expected Lord Byron
to walk in through the back door
framed by sunlight from the garden –
but one day he did exactly that.

He announced that he had something
for me, and that he was rather sorry
about all the disrespect to women he’d
shown in the past. Lord Byron was ready
to make amends. He hadn’t brought

his bear – which was lucky, as the cats
wouldn’t have lasted long with a bear.
No, he handed me a pen. It was identical
to every other pen, a plain black bic,
but he wanted me to have it. I thanked

him for his gift. I offered him a cup
of Earl Grey tea, which confused him –
he didn’t know Earl Grey was in the business
of importing tea. I said nevermind George,
nevermind, it’s lovely tea, have some.

So he sat at my table drinking tea, and stroking
the cats, and I said thank you for my gift,
but why bring this for me? He knew about
the defect in my right foot (not as severe as his),
and my curly dark hair, and he said we have these

things in common. Also we are both poets,
and I, being a woman, was an experiment for him
in writerly equality. This he had heard about
from other ghosts, like Mary Wollstonecraft,
mother of his friend’s wife, Mary Shelley.

And I said, well, that’s nice, Lord Byron, that’s
mighty kind of you, thanks. Then he finished
his tea, and said, enjoy the pen, raise some hell
with your verse, and don’t make me regret
my new decision about you women. And he left,

disintegrated into sunlight, no longer troubled
by the posthumous need to apologise to ladies,
nor by his foot, or the cold that killed him, or even
writing. And with the pen, the plain black pen,
I wrote about my meeting with Lord Byron.

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