from Ancient Light
You descend out of your providential princedom
like an ungainly duckling, marketing tidy judgements
on the world's pushed-in pussycat mews – dents
in your fibrillated penal code – your bitterdom
reigning down at Prince Eddy's pub.
And a larger, darker sea roils around the scepter'd
specter in the Square. An intercepted
Empire pass floats into the end zone – aye,
there's the rub: will ever pent-up copper pence
drift back up Nile, from whence they came?
Bluejay, hooded-eyed policeman of the air, hum
that undertone again – take up your residence
in that pussy willow beyond this circle of fixed fears:
where Balthasar's honing his Baltic razor
in a burg of unique scatterbrain-foaming peters
hoisting a green shell toward the little Czar
with Everyman's burgled image poking through the hatch
and all the little chicks come chickling chuckling
trickling overboard, and Hen's right in there tickling
himself beardless into a seven-cornered hat to match;
for it's busy as Byzantium in that juicy Rome
where Christ every Roman is roamin like no man
ever wanted to leave that little sofa-ship from Man
of Fools, and roll on, Muddy, roll! to Kingdom Come!
Balthasar was a youngster once, and prodigal.
His wisdom's handed on – a bobbing tugboat
moored to the heartstrings by a moat
in the wall of your eye. So fly, little gal!
– you're Magdalen in green, by van der
Weyden in the pool, reading again, afloat
again! – on the floor, rotating note
by note – and it ain't Peter Pan!
The Magdalen Reading, Rogier van der Weyden (National Gallery)