Ancient Light, continued.  In which Our Hero visits the National Gallery, & sees himself - and history itself - in the mirror of a tyrant.  Memento mori.

       London.  Boomdoom.  Budthud.  Sootfoot.
       No more rambling except by troubled sneaker;
       lost Henry says, I'm here, I'm here, I'm here
       But the maze's thread is a Sargasso root,
       grounded, if at all, in some impenetrable 
       drowning darkness.  Old Roger sailed here 
       with a job to do, to ratify the charter
       for his commonwealth – around the table
       the John Hancocks feathered like peacocks 
       and history quivered, against all odds
       Henry's forehead only gets the nods.
       He's no can-do canoe.  It's on the rocks,
       and schools him in Melancholia.
       That puffy wench beneath the magic square 
       and a black sun – Dürer's duration dere,
       so durable, so fort et dur, forever sighing ahhh. . .
       I ran across her there, across from The Ambassadors 
       in the Gallery, at Trafalgar Square, in the bull's
       eye.  Etched cube, an extra birthmark – spells
       out your kingly name. . . (for sea-worm funnellers).
       Take flight from routine, and you find your heart 
       stays home.  Or part of it.  And cunning Providence 
       with slant-eyed perspective suddenly invents 
       your skull on the canvas, under all the cluttered art
       implements, the dazzling tooled measurements 
       displayed full-face between the subtle hands, 
       impassive faces of those mysterious friends 
       – Holbein's Ambassadors. The tremors are intense;
       fat, squared, football-padded Paddington Bear 
       Octo-Henry is preparing to stir the continental stew; 
       beneath his burgeoning largesse, the music's raw, 
       the ants is marching even now; the skull is there,
       though you won't notice it immediately; 
       Anne's bowling toward her own pinned 
       casket beneath the green-skinned
       grin of the charnel dome, his Principality.
       Square Henry fills the frame, but he won't square 
       this with heaven, no matter how many
       royal portraitors request his fanny
       sitting on the stool of a bleeding Empire.
       The Ambassadors, those friends, divide
       down the middle; the table, with all those tools, 
       begins to split beneath unfolding rolls
       of tablecloth, the panorama unable to hide
       another dimension breaking through the seams; 
       your view must wrench away from view
       to see an ordinary skull stare back at you.
       It's Europe, breaking into splintered beams
       of reformation, into seed-spilled filaments
       of Henry's crosshairs split and double-crossed 
       beneath a diplomatic nod-and-shake, embossed 
       around in smooth doubloons in golden doublets.
       And wavering Henry stood between them, between 
       all these national frame-ups, between home
       and pools of London whirl; his kingdom
       comes apart of all this, his heart's unfelt, unseen.
       A black stone on a white stone.  Vallejo. 
       Anonymous Peruvian.  Or Blackstone
       on a white bull.  What's done
       cannot be undone – only echo, echo, echo. . .
       a free fall into Paris thursdays.  Reigning 
       humour.  Hahaha, cried the gravedigger, 
       skuldugger, ghouldogger, Londonbeggar –
       black's eternal fashion's blood sustaining!

The Ambassadors, Hans Holbein the Younger (National Gallery)

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