Edward VI

 

In hushed Westminster Abbey’s gloomy vaults,

reposed at the feet of his illustrious ancestors,

Edward the Sixth, a sixteen-year-old king,

sleeps his eternal marble sleep, long since forgotten.

He was a sober, sad, kindly youth

who in his cold palace lived with books,

with bishops and stern sages for companions,

whose death became his only history.

Since he had no love affairs, nor made war,

on his marble tomb have not been carved

the triumphal blazons left him by his forefathers,

but only these flowers for his royal crest:

the Galatian lily and the Tudor rose.

 

Fragrant his tomb, as though these flowers were real.

 

 `

*

Aquarelle

 

On the mole, sluggish in the summer’s heat,

scalding mists bob on the burning sand,

and its small houses, stark and whitewashed,

make white brush strokes on the sea.

Gold-green waters, translucent, becalmed,

reveal silver pebbles, snake-twisted seaweed,

rusting anchors and mauve shadows

that moored caiques cast around them.

Nothing moves.  A fisherman angling on the mole

stretches his hands idly and yawns,

then sprawls on the stones and has a kip.

Only a ferocious, black-haired dog

squats by the stern of a large caique

 

and squints at the dead strand drowsily.

 

`

*

Fontaine de Medicis*

 

I know a secluded corner in a large park

where even loving couples never dare go,

for darksome waters lie there chockablock with rotted leaves,

and deep-green shadows droop in their acqueous veils.

There stand stone benches, ivy-trellised,

and naked statues, moss-clad,

and a deadly quiet but for the murmurous

lamentation of mysterious waters that goes on and on.

There I’ve always seen unknown and sallow women

as though without age, with no life in their eyes,

spread on their knees their eternal embroideries,

and pallid youths holding books in their hands:

 

yet those never embroidered and these never read,

but lost in thought gazed on the dark, stagnant waters.

 

 

*In the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris.

 

`

*

I Shall Die One Day on a Mournful Autumn Afternoon

 

I shall die one day on a mournful autumn afternoon

in my cold room, all alone as I’ve always lived;

in my last anguish I shall hear the rain

and the familiar noises the street scatters.

 

I shall die one day on a mournful autumn afternoon

among furniture not mine, the place littered with books;

the police shall find me in bed

and bury me a man who had no history.

 

Of my friends, with whom now and then I played cards,

someone will simply ask, “Has anyone seen

Ouranis?  He hasn’t been around for days.”

Another, playing, will answer, “But he died!”

 

They’ll stop for a moment, cards in hand,

shake their heads slowly, sorrowfully, and say,

“What is man!  Only yesterday he was still living!”

And then resume their playing speechless.

 

Some fellow journalist will write in the “small notices”

that “Ouranis died abroad untimely,

a young man well known amid our set, whose first book

of poems showed much promise.”

 

And this will be my life’s last epitaph.

Only my aged parents will weep back home,

hold a memorial service with far too many priests,

with all my friends attending, even my foes.

 

I shall die one day on a mournful autumn afternoon

in a strange room, in bustling Paris,

and some “Kate,” thinking I’ve jilted her for another,

will write to curse me – but I’ll be dead….

 

`

*

Park in Autumn

 

How mournful seems the park in the rain,

its wan flowers wounded and tilting,

its statues washed down as round each base

rot in heaps withered leaves brought by the wind….

In the grim, ashen horizon

its passageways, now deserted, endless and cold,

with their tall trees stripped to the bone

as though advancing to the mute kingdom of the dead.

By the ponds, the ancient urns

cast no reflections as in summertime

when the white doves fluttered down to drink.

Only the fountain’s musical dirge

in the drizzle and the chill

in vain is scattered through the destitute, harrowing day.