ONLY ARTIFICE WILL REMAIN


When a joiner made the oak frame of this

long sash window, when a builder set it

in the wall, when a glazier puttied

in the panes that keep the weathers in their place,

all I would have seen were hedges, fields, ponds

and grazing dairy cattle – before the rise,

the decline and the fall, in a hundred

and sixty years, of so many empires.

 

When I stand on the back doorstep and search

for the stars amid the urban glare and the overcast

and then look down I see me silhouetted

in the gazebo’s windows – like the figure,

in ‘Las Meninas’, whom we see through

an open door, having paused climbing the stairs

to briefly watch paint capture majesty.

 

I think of Xerses, anticipating

victory over all of Greece, the world,

watching his armies cross the Bosporus

into Europe, suddenly weeping,

knowing that none of them would be alive

a hundred years from then – and longing

for the pillars and for the gardens

of Persepolis. A century or more

later, Alexander the Great will scourge

the city’s entire populace. Only

artifice will remain.

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by Ian Craine - March 22nd, 2014 at 16:53

    I do like the way you lead into these poems with striking images – the installation of the sash window.

  2. #2 by John Huddart - March 25th, 2014 at 10:08

    Like ‘The Coat Hanger’, as Ian observes, the domestic image leads out into the world, and connects our lives to the histories of where we live and the events of a distant past. The poem honours classical history while making it clear that its significance is no greater than our own. So what remains of us – our thoughts, our works, our poems! Such artifice!

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