Empires

What light came into darkness, woven

a subtle embryo, swimming in ocean clarity,

the womb a canopy over banquets

bold, fragrant food and wine, colorful fruit

spanning the year-long table, differences

in a myriad of forms, put aside

and the artist wept, his paint plural, in black dress

from ways of society, and genre—

staring out over the handsome rye fields

stark against the prairie dust, cultivation

a metaphor of strong stable marriage.

.

What breath peeled dewy morning from sunrise,

shadowing lilies of the ancient path,

neat gardens specked in red and white expanse,

skirts of dancers twirling on the smooth lawn,

flawless bright comment of the early sun,

the wind of heaven lent its full perfume,

and when I heard the following of birds

descending from steeple mount, larks, sparrows,

seeking the reflection of the green’s eyes,

darting over all that is paradise—

resplendent as honor from the lost sons.

.

What thistle rooted self in the conscience

of man, a thorn, embedding itself

in human flesh, an unfamiliar pain

and requisite suffering, hollowing

his eyes into a vacant stare, inane,

the trivial, a competition in

improvement—and weakness, avocation.

We decree our ordinance to conserve

all that remains, in one declamation

embodied by the hills we left behind,

the insult hunger, too heavy to change.

.

What plunder was a force of position,

distinction between sides, copper faces

flourishing like a parade, peering through

the backbone streets, plethora of sainted

stammers shafting and plunging contagion

with deliberating style and pomp.

The spare and unprolific old despoil,

ransacking the scenery to tainted

color, expressing pride without symbol,

conspiring to daring heroism

by some, and analogous silent traits.

.

Why was my figurehead

etched upon a coin? The touch piece

was a keepsake and currency of a nation

emaciated and gaunt,

starving for the food of my voice—

resonant and luminous as the fruit of the vine.

My charger went forth, no more than a colt,

yet I was a horsewoman.

What I could not imitate of the ardent prayer,

I swallowed and said again in my own words,

opening the heavens and descending like an eagle.

.

What was too fragile to hold on, the wing

of a clay butterfly in flight was love,

ponderous and riveting, hungry, bold—

taking a canvas by surprise without

paint or artist, just a smash of glass parts

doubling back on all that was victory,

jubilee of visions casting shadows

that extended far into the parking

lot of a garden you would pay to see.

The gravedigger came by with a shovel,

faulted me on leaving a single rose.

–Emily Isaacson, A Familiar Shore c. 2015

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