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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.




© Copyright David Selzer
2 Responses
  • Ian Craine
    March 22, 2014

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

  • John Huddart
    March 25, 2014

    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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