In the Museum:
Sketches from the Antique
Sarcophagus with Four Seasons
No, it has nothing to do with Nature,
although one suave leg kisses another;
arms embrace the fruits of the earth;
waist and hip slide back into bliss.
Do quiet eyes remember?
Within the unlit space all is swept clear;
antique pride dismisses disgrace.
Lines descend, vertical to horizontal;
twelve cuts make the year.
Each plane slides into place:
five; and six; a fitted bevel
leaves no room for fear.
I am astonished when looking inside;
how little I remember;
as if you had never died.
Lines of metal thread through stone,
laced and knotted, suggesting a face
in certain lights –
but easily effaced
by rain or night’s descent
to eyes dammed and flooded
beyond the reach of sight,
withdrawn to stone, blind
at long last, before
the hand’s kind gesture of repose.
Landscape Obscures the View
Revered beyond words: the unspoken earth,
painful wood, dust adrift, compel the heart,
demand obedience suddenly
from the unprepared.
they claim my sight as if theirs by natural right,
and I their casual artifact;
behind a monumental slab: scratched, blank;
scarred voice, futile hand,
You wished to be allowed
to return to dust –
balked over and over again,
against the insistent wheel;
crying in red and black;
amid flame, enclosure,
and the searing branch.
But she, with terrible eyes, refused,
extending her arm around
your body, making it stand
forever, or approximately:
full of grief, ash, the bony splinters
of your friend.
Evaporation draws the scene
in spite of the refraction
of a name,
dissolving rays haunted
by statues hovering vicariously
above their plinths;
drifting away from uneasy
alcoves and niches
emptied by fog.
An ear, a curl at the nape,
granular eyes cast warily
down swagged robes
rinsed with rust or soot;
the brief contribution, too,
of a morning dog.
They raise their instruments
as usual, having forgotten
after all these years
their use, to persistent
condensation: and pluck,
a weightless song.
Augury at Antioch, AD 299
The landscape is imaginary, littered
with weeping giants, snake-coiled stairs,
the athletic arms of goddesses twisting,
knotting their smoky veils, enraged.
Cattle shift in and out of black pillared
shade, indolent eyes and oozing nostrils
insufficiently aware of the knife.
In the end, liver and heart, abashed
intestines, forgot. Inert, uninscribed, they slid
to voiceless hysteria beneath the ornate grief
of arches realizing their symmetry.
The emperor, in jeweled slippers,
uncovered his head;