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;
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.
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.
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;