Gold leaf, ground sapphire:
in the English book of hours,
the longest day of the year turns a page
in the season of spending
no sumptuary law can curb—
but today’s meditation has been interrupted
by a panicked feathery clatter:
a wood pigeon, ungainly in rosy waistcoat,
distracted on the way to Ascot
by an ornamental cherry at my window.
Branches too slender to bear the bird’s weight
dangle fruit almost beneath notice—
barely there are the ruby umbrella-tips
I glimpsed once in a jeweler’s window
in Venice. Who in the world had thought
she couldn’t live without them,
let alone be rowed to the Lido for tea?
O long-rotted silk parasol! Tell me
what those blood drops cost after you were gone.
Some big number—I can’t remember—
tied to the most decadent things I’d ever seen.
From the stiffest branch, craning the neck
he doesn’t have, the bird still can’t reach
a drop of red. Upside down, tail fanned,
wings spread against the leafy flutters of greed—
an ever wilder wobbling ripples like rumor
through the leaves, shaking other birds
down to their claws—
and then desire has lost to gravity.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 30 Number 2, on page 30
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