I found myself an old sailor of fortune
cast up on this chessboard of a kingdom,
weary of weariness
and ready to risk all for a song.
Princesses — supple, pale, and lovely as stars,
clustering around your unlovely moon of a father —
I could not resist your subtle allure.
I followed you down your night–long dream,
through trees heavy with dangerous light,
down to where sleep had made
a private passage and a dancing —
cruel, self-regarding, and entirely innocent —
that men have died for.
Wearing the cloak of absence,
I was not there when you looked for me,
but a tinkle of precious leaves
laughed high in your nervous shadows.
Secreting myself in your desires,
I rode the long glide
of your delicate vessels,
stroking through starless, oceanic darkness,
a kind of death you dreamed us into and through.
Down with you in your deep–seated castle,
I watched you whirl with your hard–dancing friends,
but I was all around you
like the scent of magnolias —
all around you,
drinking wine from under your prettily poised lips,
cavorting between and behind your dancing,
and generally making
an invisible fool of myself.
Coming back up,
I was ahead of your deadly game,
sprinting to put on a semblance of snoring.
Now that I have told the world about all this,
I will marry you, loveliest of ringleaders,
become king of your light–footed kingdom,
learn the latest Viennese moves,
and invest heavily in soft leather shoes.
About the Author: Joseph Stanton has published poetry in a wide variety of journals and anthologies including Poetry, Poetry East, New York Quarterly, Ekphrasis, and Harvard Review. His work has been collected in Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, What the Kite Thinks, and Cardinal Points: Poems on St. Louis Cardinals Baseball. His scholarly work has appeared in such journals as American Art, Art Criticism, Journal of American Culture, and Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Stanton teaches art history and American studies at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
Copyright © 1999 by Joseph Stanton. The poem originally appeared in Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, published by Time Being Books. It may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission.