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FEEDING THE SACRED IBIS
In temple courtyard of the thrice-great god
you feed the sacred ibis: from your bowl
small silver minnows drop and curved beaks prod
Nilotic offerings of the lunar soul.
Without His power these lines would not exist;
inventor of first script, recording thought,
our hearts are weighed before the judgement tryst
by feathered head in Osirian court.
Maybe for you this eschatology
in iconed columns holds no massive weight;
the hungry birds are no mythology
but messy pets, impatient if youre late.
As sungods envoy flames bright evening star
Cooled temple priests chant languid hymns to Ptah.
THE PRINCESS OF COORG
There is within your jewelled face a look
that speaks I am your mistress and your slave
and your ringed fingers hold a gospelled book
that reads I shall be saved before the grave.
Can this be true? Could you forsake Nandu
and love a rain-soaked god of colder lands?
What nerve in girlish heart could still eschew
insistent mantras from Brahminic hands?
I cannot say and yet today my heart
felt as it once pulsated in its youth, -
fed by her almond eyes delicious smart -
as if it touched eternal womans truth:
Take me and take the world afresh to bear
a new-born-son, another life declare.
THE GATE OF THE METWALEYS
In torpid heat of Arabian noon
the silk and textile merchants trade their wares;
on mosques cooled steps exotic drapes are strewn,
twin minarets exalt the call to prayers.
Victorious capital, Al Quahirah,
your greatness spreads as rivers holy mud
hot pharaohs mistress, emperors lustful star,
you cover my flesh like Niles annual flood.
From latticed screens your arcane eyes shoot out
to pierce my heart with tender-venomed dart;
unpart that veil, unfold those lips, undoubt
these words: that we might never draw apart.
In you, the desert and the luscious shore;
with flitting years I love you more and more.
THE CHILD ATTACKED BY A SERPENT
Already, wily serpents scales tight-coil
around babes ankle and, with raising head,
split tongue is ready to inject its spoil
when wakeful dog kills venomed fiend instead.
In greenest Cymric vale and Grecian glade
a faithful beast protects the child from harm,
from were-wolves, succubi, and deaths night-shade
without a selfish thought, without a qualm.
And could I ever learn from nobleness
of unspeeched friends and might I ever teach
those virtues that assuage my sole distress
at jackals laugh and vultures doomsday screech?
Cast from elysium garden of delight
I partly see lost flowers with their sight.
THE FALL OF CLARENDON
You fled impeachment for a France you sold;
unable to support the fickle court,
attacked by gout, worn out, despised and old,
fops lace and frills scorned your out-fashioned thought.
Theres no return to seat of king-like power
the Hollander war made you a write-off,
and when they burnt the Navys dockyard flower,
you fell into disgraces stinking trough.
Proscribed as evil counsellor, your wit
and admonitions failed to save Kings head
yet Act of Oblivion, parliaments writ,
restored the monarchys reign instead.
Black-robed, you stare into strange aftertime.
with rigid exiles thoughts, discharged of crime.
Cerise-cheeked boy guides livestock to loch shores -
a collie dog companion in his trek -
past broken rocks and fern-enshrouded moors:
ahead droves disappear into faint speck.
It is the empty beauty of stern scene
that strikes with cruel hand of clearances.
Might he be bound to leave entranced demesne
for novel worlds with no backward glances?
An ancient land, a dispossessed estate,
sounds plangent music in its nightfall tints:
austere laments of loves and battles fate
while hills reflect a sunsets burning glints.
Relentless summit winds blow tongue that speak:
where is great heart of nation I still seek.
SPANIARDS AND PERUVIANS
It might have been so different, but the sly
conquistadors inquisitorial look
at placid interest in Incas eye
reveals conversions tortured, blood-soiled book.
The will to learn from others dies in greed
and worlds are joined by gold and hearts are lost.
Can son of man so roughly intercede
when hemispheric oceans are first crossed?
But for this moment theres a hope in time
before obsidian knife trepans the mind
while vultured priests exalt a lawful crime
and chroniclers write off part of mankind.
Must global meetings be so stained with doubt?
As mines extract societies cry out.
JULIET AND THE NURSE
Its fun and games, banter and chatter now,
a sexy play on words, pure ravishment;
while virgin blossom flowers on the bough
alls well with bright stars and theres no dissent.
Iced clash of words and swords, artful masquerade,
pale duping elixir and misplaced trysts,
gold sunrise of teenagers love betrayed
with killing arms and ungilt lips half-kissed...
all this is yet far-off and laughters tears
have not discovered covert spring of grief.
But though no place for disbelief or fears,
behind the scene lies times delusive thief.
Why must such freshness of a girls high trust
be shattered in a sepulchres dry dust?
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