Thursday, June 18, 2009

You Should Have Been Painted In A Lilac Mist

[for Anna Akhmatova]

you should have been painted in a lilac mist

looking out to sea yet-
holding the sea within.

you would have stood apart

by an open window, breathing-
the scent of pine trees where
another poet walked-

hearing the sound of the sea

holding the sea within,
its dove-grey caesuras
meted out so carefully

like the steps to the fairytale

castle and the end of the story;
your raspberry syllables spilling over

where there could be no decrees;

with your friend who loved Africa
and drew giraffes on your school
slate, possibly, who hated raspberry

jam even then;

with your small son playing

learning to walk in the
pine-needled shade;

with your other friend, who loved life

and pure delight, praising its syllables
of true delight and small feasts managed

in distress: a tin of sardines, Armenian grapes,

a miracle;
banished like a real prince:
by his side, his starling wife
hid all his poems in crummy saucepans -

and in her heart ever after

o darkened wing - o muse

o hidden stars half-turning into fire,
Cassandra, who is listening

like snow it all disappeared

shining into a farther sea
inside you
after nothing like a Golden Age
no one in any language

can explain.

I sit at my kitchen table in America

as white as you were at the
height of Terror,

Anna Akhmatova, getting paler by
the minute, in public housing
with other golden refugees of a
free nation

the kitchen radio proclaims:

"A Great Nation deserves Great Art"
I think sometimes

great art deserves a great nation;


selling my books off, one-by-one, to live;

when I get to the last book I'll go
live under a pine tree and make
books out of pine bark

but this morning

you shine on my momentary wall
the color of buttermilk
looking for Russia, still-

looking for an open window

for the sound of the sea
for an undeniable clarity
that can't be bought or sold...

Anna Akhmatova.

ask God for me

if you don't know yourself,
is it anywhere in the world

or only in

the next poem

that we live-

mary angela douglas 18 june 2009