The Menage

T
Up stand
six
yellow
jonquils
in a
glass/
the stems
dark green,
paling
as they descend
into the water/
seen through
a thicket
of baby’s breath, “a tall herb
bearing numerous small,
fragrant white flowers.”
I have seen
snow-drops larger.
I bent my face down.
To my delight
they were convoluted
like a rose.
They had no smell,
their white
the grain of Biblical dust,
which like the orchid itself
is as common as hayseed.
Their stems were thin and woody
but as tightly compacted
as a tree trunk,
greenish rubbings showing in spots
through the brown;
wiry, forked twigs so close,
they made an impassable bush
which from a distance
looked like mist.

I could barely escape
from that wood of particulars ...
the jonquils whose air within
was irradiated topaz,
silent as in an ear,
the stems leaning lightly
against the glass,
trisecting its inner circle
in the water,
crossed like reverent hands
(ah, the imagination!
Benedicite.
Enter monks.
Oops, sorry!
Trespassing
on Japanese space.
Exit monks
and all their lore
from grace).

I was moved by all this
and murmured
to my eyes, “Oh, Master!”
and became engrossed again
in that wood of particulars
until I found myself
out of character, singing
“Tell me why you’ve settled here.”

“Because my element is near.”
and reflecting,
“The eye of man cares. Yes!”

But a familiar voice
broke into the wood,
a shade of mockery in it,
and in her smile
a fore-knowledge
of something playful,
something forbidden,
something make-believe
something saucy,
something delicious
about to pull me
off guard:
“Do you want to be my Cupid-o?”

In fairness to her
it must be said
that her freckles
are always friendly
and that the anticipation
of a prank
makes them radiate
across her face
the way dandelions
sprout in a field
after a summer shower.

“What makes you so fresh,
my Wife of Bath?
What makes you so silly,
o bright hen?”

“That’s for you to find out,
old shoe, old shoe.
That’s for you to find out
if you can.”

“Oh yeah!”
(a mock chase and capture).
“Commit her
into jonquil’s custody.
She’ll see a phallus
in the pistil.
Let her work it off there.”

But I was now myself
under this stringent force
which ended,
as real pastorals in time must,
in bed, with the great
eye of man, rolling.
46
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