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Alberta Clipper 9/1/15: “Art and Craft” by Diana O’Hehir

by Summer Bethune

Eighteen years ago on September 1st, the whole world appalled at the news that Diana, Princess of Wales, a well-loved British icon celebrated for her charity work, had been killed in a car accident. Investigations revealed that the driver, Henri Paul, was drunk and speeding at close to 120 mph when the accident occurred in the Place d’Alma underpass in Paris, France.

That day in Lincoln, the temperatures remained comfortably between 66 and 84 degrees. Until that evening when scant thunderstorms began around 10 p.m. and the sky cried down upon the city, perhaps in mourning with the rest of the world.

Four years later, the 2001 summer issue of Prairie Schooner included a poem by another Diana—Diana O’Hehir from California, a well-known poet and the author of I Wish this War Were Over, a novel published in early 2001. Her poem, “Art and Craft” offers a magical perspective on a royal family in a light-hearted yet heart-breaking way.

“Art and Craft”
Diana O’Hehir

It’s a gift from the king
and the queen has dropped
and cracked it.

She’s panicky.
She calls in the magic tailor
who can mend anything: he
sews up the eggshell tight,
clean.
Secrecy, she says, and pays him.
Now, disappear.

Three months later out pops a baby princess,
perfect,
except a scarlet seam down her back.
That’s the mark of her royal heritage,
the queen tells the king

who loves his baby daughter.

Years pass. Everyone gets much older.
The grey-haired queen hardly thinks about her
joyous, shimmering light-shot
egg-crack days.
When, knock, knock,
here’s the tailor, the brilliant
who can mend anything, be it hard as
steel or soft as a woman’s breath.
The queen panicks.
Go away.
You promised.
Gold? Silver? Rubies?

But the tailor says no, and no.
He’s felt mortality’s bite; he wants
artistic recognition.
I am the best, he says.
The world must know,
because life is short but art is long.

The queen sags.
Once she thought that love was long,
and now she knows,
hardly an eye-blink, hardly a cough,
Do, she tells him, what you need to do.

And that’s the end of
that kingdom. 

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 75, No. 2 (Summer 2001)


 
The Alberta Clipper is a biweekly gust of history—brushing the dust off of a poem from our archives and situating it in the current events and local Nebraskan weather reports of days gone by. Explore the Alberta Clipper archives here.