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Juana Receives News of Summer Rain
For Juana of Aragon and Castile (1479-1555)
by Abigail Wyatt

They tell me sweet rain comes at last
to cool my prison walls, falls slant-wise,
like the words of those who came
with eyes downcast but afterwards
grew fearless with the going on of time.
I am happy for it -– the rain, I mean -–
for the doing away of this drought.
If they would but conclude me too
I might take ship for home.

They tell me there are trees beyond
the desert of my door — though I
have not heard birds at prayer
since your last uttered cry.
And where is that plump fledgling
that once prattled in your tongue,
and hung about my skirts and neck
to woo me from my dark?

They tell me now that bird has flown
to soar and sing elsewhere.
I would that I might follow her
to perch amongst lush leaves.
There I would speak that hymn
of praise that glorifies your grace;
and so make sweet confession,
finding sanity in peace.

They tell me that I may not write;
nor may I speak, nor can I sing —
though I am free to play, or pray,
or sanctify a seam or hem.
My needle is my crucifix:
I stitch the cross I bleed.
I would that I might sew a shroud
and I, not you, be dead.

They tell me that my mind has gone
and I am shut away. They say it is
their kindness since I cannot be their queen.
Less kindness, though, than madness
if true madness taints my blood;
but blood it was first spoke me mad
and cosseted my loss to keep
me in that chaos that would
pitch me from my throne.

They tell me I must make my peace
and offer up my soul
to Him who took you from me
who was then my lord of life.
They instruct me in my madness
and the pattern of my days:
to them I say hold fast your tongue
for here a soft rain falls.

PHOTO: (Left) Abigail Wyatt as Juana “La Loca” of Aragon and Castile, the character played by Pilar Lopez de Ayala in Mad Love (2001). This photo was shot in 1983 at East Tilbury in Essex, U.K.. The photographer was my then-husband. Ironically enough, given Juana’s lifelong passion for the womanizing Felipe El Hermoso, it was shortly after this picture was taken that I learned of my husband’s longstanding affair with a woman I thought of as a friend.(Right) Pilar Lopez de Ayala in Mad Love (2001).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It is many years now since I first came across Juana’s haunting and tragic story. Over time, my fascination with the passionate beauty who came to be known as La Loca has continued to grow, perhaps to the point of becoming an obsession. In this poem, which is one of a number in which she features, I have imagined myself towards the end of her long life, more than half of which was spent in close confinement, addressing her dead husband whom she continued to love passionately in spite of his treachery in matters both personal and political. In the second and third stanzas she laments the loss of her youngest daughter who for a time shared her imprisonment. She then goes on the detail the constraints placed on her. For a woman of her temperament, her intelligence, and, indeed, her superior education, these must have been as onerous as the fact of incarceration itself. Nevertheless, Juana was raised and educated by The Catholic Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand, so there is some reason to think that she sought and found consolation in her faith. It is certain that, like her sister, Katherine of Aragon, she was taught to believe that royalty and service were her twin destinies. I like to think that, at the end, despite her many betrayals by those who should have loved her, she could still raise herself to her full height and show the bearing and manner of a queen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Abigail Wyatt was born and raised in Essex but now lives in Cornwall, U.K.. Since 2007, examples of her writings — mainly in the form of poetry and short and flash fiction — have appeared in more than 100 magazines, journals, and anthologies. This is something she continues to see as a rather wonderful blessing. A Pushcart nominee for Still Life, her poem about American artist Georgia O’Keefe, Abigail was recently honoured by the inclusion of her work in WAVEHUB: new poetry from Cornwall (2014). Since the editor of this anthology, poet and playwright,Dr. Alan M. Kent, is one of Cornwall’s foremost literary figures, to an Essex girl born and bred it means a very great deal to have been thus included.