Saturday, September 24, 2011

Byzantium: the Lady-Friend of the Archeologist

The serpent is inlaid with gold,
all the gold that he can hold;
the dove is rimmed with chrysolite –
she hasn't got a hope of flight.

All across the tessellations
march the figured constellations:
God is pictured there as well,
and Noah, leading apes in hell.

Where Jesus is, I couldn't say,
From a boy he's been this way:
his mother says since he could toddle
he's always been inclined to dawdle.

Late to dinner, late to lunch,
enraptured by a sudden hunch
that bees will talk if treated right –
you'd only need to be polite.

You'll find him squatting in the yard,
both eyes closed, listening hard,
to the golden-flickered hum
of the vespid on his thumb.

she lifts her fingers from the tile,
lit by a wandering, ragged smile,
bringing away the thick prosaic
dust from the eyes of the mosaic:

she believes she's found behind the sky,
of gathered lapis lazuli,
the lines of his suddenly stinging doubt
traced in the ancient workman's grout.


Dave said...

I like this a lot even though I don't understand it. It has good mouth-feel, as they say of quality ales.

Dale said...

Thanks, Dave! I think this is largely a product of watching that interview with Kay Ryan. Such an engaging person! And those inwoven rhymes of hers were so clever!

Natalie said...

I absolutely love this on every level.

Should lazuli rhyme with sky? I pronounce it lazulee, accent on 'la'. Am I wrong?

am said...

For some reason, on a second reading, a day later, your words made me think of Maya Angelou's words about knowing why the caged bird sings and Dylan Thomas singing in his chains like the sea. I don't clearly recall seeing art reproductions on your blog, except for your napkin art. This image clearly spoke through time to you. Now I'm curious as to its source. The word mosaic must have something to do with Moses.

Dale said...

Natalie, from a quick glance at dictionaries online, either pronunciation is acceptable. I would be more likely to say it as you say it -- Yeats after all rhymed it with "longevity," and I'm quite sure that I learned the name from that poem -- but I loved how it fit here, with (as I think of it) the more hick pronunciation, and an American tolerance of two stresses in a single word. (LAZZ you LIE.) A gorgeous vulgarity.

Dale said...

am, I'm a little embarrassed about the photo. I lifted it from this website: but it was unattributed and I had a feeling they had just swiped it from somewhere, so I was hesitant to credit them. Which really means I shouldn't have used it at all. But it even had green around the dove! I couldn't resist. (I found it after I wrote the poem, not before.)

Lucy said...

I love this and its arguable and cheeky rhymes. Toddle and dawdle don't work at all in British so I have to say them in American; I think I usually say lazuli to rhyme with sky, but maybe not always. Prosaic and mosaic is great; I've often wondered what the connection was between the adjective from Moses and the tilework so I looked and it turns out there is none! Mosaic as art comes from the same root as muse.

This mercurial Jesus reminds me a little of the one in old English folk songs and mediaeval lyrics, who played tricks and got his bottom smacked.

Coming back here after a time away is always a treat, never overwhelming like catching up elsewhere can be.

Dale said...

Yes, toddle and dawdle are perfect rhymes in my more-or-less Midwestern dialect of English. They're not in my father's (New Jersey, by way of Texas) -- completely different vowels, as in British English.

I'm glad the tone came across! I was pleased with this but there was a polite silence for a day or two which was making me think I'd missed the mark. I can be pleased with really dreadful stuff when I first write it, which appalls me a day or two later :-)