|Jul/Aug 2009 Poetry Special Feature|
At the Fête Champêtre, Twickenham
For Elihu Burritt, 1864
Rose or thorn—each smile behind the lace
on display here. Fancy goods
threaded by royal needles, and offered up for sale
by "the fairest fingers" of two lands.
Such a bazaar you've never seen.
Smoking-caps embroidered by a countess—
a linen handkerchief worked by a duchesse—
and all to benefit the poor.
You're not buying. Penniless observer,
you meander stall to stall, marveling at what silk
flatters and conceals. Expel
the thought of Hawthorne with his "iron pen."
You couldn't look a schoolgirl in the face.
But here, you can imagine
each fair-and-lovely turned to marble,
harmless as Greek art.
Seasonal—dry most of the year.
a month of storms, expelling
water from the sky, from hillsides
to join the mountain runoff, water
brown as soil rage-washing
out our fences. Drought or spate.
Never a sweet
meander under oak and willow,
the sheltering buckeye
that just now conceals a doe
and twin fawns—deer famished
for our roses, undeterred
How do we live here?
Like the deer
foraging our seasons.
Indian lettuce in spring salad,
mustard greens from the banks
of a creek overhung
by wild plums dreaming
fruit in June; a creek already dry
in April, but keeping
in its sand and rockfalls
the secret of a changing—