No 13 - January 2001
Pavanne for a dead princess
A humble pie moon tumbles to the linoleum
in my laundry room, hugging my
bare legs as if to beg me for something--
making my threadbare towel glow
like a white veil of Veronica,
the oil of my face wiped on the cloth.
I rise from my banquet couch in the painted tomb
at Tarquinia, holding the egg between thumb and fingers.
I am the painting of joy, resurrected many times
in many thyme-scented, pomegranate-blossom springs.
I have grown into the bodies of women and men
like a vine that penetrates a masonry wall.
I am the green shoots that pry apart the rock.
The sui-zen blowing meditation of my bamboo flute
sharpens the ear as a razor makes a point
on a pencil which begins to draw.
The present moment enters me, as a letter
is written in pine needles and bamboo leaves.
The defunct princess dances her pavanne
by the piano. She unravels her revels
with taffeta ribbons loosening in her braids.
Her smile is solemn, the smile of a priestess
who moves ceremoniously into the temple of death,
which oddly resembles the sounding board
of an old Bösendorfer piano, inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
At the reading, five elegies are read,
three streaked with silver. The fourth
is a painted narrative of Mother, a huge
hatbox of disappointments tied up
with ribbons of Renaissance refrains.
The fifth is a Jewish joke about resurrection
that circles and circles like a noose
being tied, untied, re-tied, tightened.
Robert Haas writing on rings of haiku
is also woven in, making the rings taut.
The princess still dances. Had you forgotten
to teach her new steps for her pavanne?
It’s a hard religion that expects resurrection
when all around is the proof that the rabbi
could not resurrect the body. It was “really dead.”
The Kabbala gave him words. The poet Pinsky gave him words.
But Lazarus did not always want to live again.
He preferred the snug cerements, the lack of air,
a cessation from the pressure to love and procreate.
Wrap your body in a blank white canvas.
Place organs in a canopic jar with turpentine and brushes.
The inscape: a formal Renaissance clock garden
mounded up with lavender, lemon balm, thyme,
sewed together like the inseam of silk trousers,
interpolated with tall rosemary bushes, pink poppies, and
eglantine, whose pavanne is danced by une princesse défunte.
How did this ring of ribbons get inside that ring?
How did the wild cyclamen at Tarquinia come up
through a cairn of mounded rocks?
Who taught her the steps for her pavanne?
The tiny old men venerable as mountains, meditate in huts
built of matchsticks by flooding waterfalls,
travel with donkeys over dragon-shaped boulders,
pole their way down tea-coloured silk rivers
among bamboo groves, under bristling, sheltering pines.
From the perspective of the mountain top, the figures
are like ants on an anthill, industrious or not.
A drunk poet paints bamboo askew, his hand
shaking out ink as a porcupine shakes quills.
His poem starts quietly, gets big, deflates--
like the shape of a bamboo leaf, like flute music
called sassa. He drinks to clear his head
so he can hear the cherry blossoms pelt the river
with their white foam. He hears a mouse rustle.
The Bösendorfer piano was left behind in Hungary
in 1956, its owner an eight-year-old girl who escaped
under Russian gunfire. She suffers from migraine now, prefers
silver to lemon-colored light, and is chronically depressed.
In her room, a vase of lavender, lemon balm, and
pale pink poppies--in her painting, the same
in gold and silver as if the painting had a migraine.
Named after a flower, she steps out of The Shepheardes Calendar
as time takes away the empty apartment and the pavanne.
That princess is defunct. This one lives on, in moonlight,
wears black dresses and earrings that mime diamonds.
She will wear an egg-shaped Easter hat woven with ribbons.
I think about Easter lamb and rosemary, sorbet with cassis.
Where shall we hide the speckled eggs this year?
In the daffodils thrusting up from under the rocks?
Inside the bright green foxglove leaves?
Shall “Death’s dark angel shield his sword”
as we sing the triumphant hymns in Ascension Church,
admiring John La Farge’s white-clad Christ and apostles?
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The