Harold H. Piffard – Napoleon and Josephine. 1895.
We could have built an empire together.
But you were never happy at home,
with me, cravate and sword, my men and my plans,
fingers outstretched to foreign places,
and yours reaching back toward me —
the blood that was shed was never really for you.
the lands that were conquered were never for you,
but for the future you couldn’t bear with me,
or for me.
In Paris, it was better,
those days of violin songs and baroque strings
you taught my fingers how to strum whatever you pleased.
Now, you’ll bury your progeny in caskets of pewter instead of gold,
while I die of loneliness and thirst, counting coins,
parched, on an island, for you, crowned in the light that I first saw.
Byzantine churches and Egypt we used to see,
but you wanted to go back to plantations and rings,
coronations and stones, my letters and love, were not enough.
So to god, I bid you adieu.
I step out into the water, with my fingers pressed to my temple,
while you, my sweet Josephine, cry tears to fill the distance between us.