The Garden Party


I am inside the walls of the palace garden.
A quiet path is lined with flowers; a policeman
takes my papers and peers into my face.
London’s only heron guards the branch of a tree.
A cardinal, a general and a Buddhist monk
confer on the corner, sipping lemon barley water.
We join them and stare at the back of the palace;
as if being allowed to peek behind a magic mirror.
The summer house floats on a sea of grass.
Inside a Corgi made from wicker bathes in sunlight.
The ghost of Queen Victoria moves from guest
to guest, listening quietly, her shadow flitting
from group to group, admiring the hats and frocks.
The Beefeaters appear in yellow and scarlet
with pikes and flowers around the brims of their hats.
They stake out the grounds and divide the crowds.
Two brass bands compete from opposite ends.
they alternate like the two parts of a Swiss clock;
When one finishes, it lowers a flag; the other
raises theirs and strikes up the National Anthem.
A lady made from paper and lace sings along
in a whispered contralto. Rick Wakeman bows
his head then looks up, scanning the skies for rain.
The Queen is tiny, but beautiful in purple and pearls.
She watches the crowd without a smile, thinking
of the distance between the steps and her tea.
The Duke wears an old smile and a pink carnation.
He returns a grey top hat to his head. We take tea:
mint and cucumber sandwiches; chocolate squares
with a coat of arms on a chocolate button. A teacher
wraps hers to show the schoolchildren the next day.
We stand on the steps, as if at the end of a wedding day
warming the flats of our hands on the stone wall.
To my left, Edward VIII, looks out at the garden,
a silver shadow of himself, as if he has stepped
from a news reel, thinking of everything he must
give up; how love has made him a ghost of history.

Chris and Maria - ready for the Palace