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