Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into an artifice of eternity.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Hermitage


~For J.H.~

What malice flits amongst these rococo lamps and marble urns
and clocks of imperial gold? What chimeras are awoken?
What ghosts arise as snow falls through faith’s fourth wall?

Come, let us go beneath the dome of a harsh conceit
to where our dreams pardon every poet's dream
and a pathos cuts across the paths where serenity goes.

Look, here come the Pharisees through the Flemish dusk,
they must shut their eyes to see their way to Heaven;
let us go before they reach the farther misty shore.

The people fear us, heretics and fanatics that we are,
strummers of the dust that gathers on roads and lives
inside an emerald or an amber kist. Now here's a nun's kiss,

now a white farewell, here comes the thaw of all our blood,
and now the leather men, and now our silver sons,
ice stones forged in fire and now the loud recriminations

of words forbidding words, the cold of a canvas, coffin secrets
and at last the end, the blockade, war's coin unspent by war,
purple pageants finding a sovereign or a Persian rest,

and a million candle flames falling out of snow as funeral bells
toll to crunching feet and footprints vanish in the grey,
going to their end in the terminal palace of repose:

Do you remember the heavens without the tsars?
Why were they evicted so soon from their astral graves?
The acorns of the sun tumbled through the dancing dark.

The virgins were birds clapped into rhapsodies of flight.
Can you hear the laughter of their feathers still?
The orchestra plays its twilight mazurka and time passes.

Applause, applause, for the fin de si├Ęcle that has come,
applause for the stately exodus, applause for it is all over;
farewell, Europe; goodbye to all your marble tabernacles

and golden colonnades; adieu to all that you once were —
history deported you like a fleeting dream into war,
and a sad music played it and you poignantly away:

now a slow procession of all those departed emerges,
beautifully assembled once more and trafficked out the door
to that sea of flurried snow where they'll float onwards forever.
 

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