Peony silks,
in wax-light:
that petal-sheen,
gold or apricot or rose
candled into-
what to call it,
lumina, aurora, aureole?
About gowns,
the Old Masters,
were they ever wrong?
This penitent Magdalen’s
wrapped in a yellow
so voluptuous
she seems to wear
all she’s renounced;
this boy angel
isn’t touching the ground,
but his billow
of yardage refers
not to heaven
but to pleasure’s
textures, the tactile
sheers and voiles
and tulles
which weren’t made
to adorn the soul.
Eternity’s plainly nude;
the naked here and now
longs for a little
dressing up. And though
they seem to prefer
the invisible, every saint
in the gallery
flaunts an improbable
tumble of drapery,
a nearly audible liquidity
(bright brass embroidery,
satin’s violin-sheen)
raveled around the body’s
plain prose; exquisite
(dis?)guises; poetry,
music, clothes.
Nothing needs to be this lavish.
Even the words I’d choose
for these leaves;
intricate, stippled, foxed,
tortoise, mottled, splotched
-jeweled adjectives
for a forest by Fabergé,
all cloisonné and enamel,
a yellow grove golden
in its gleaming couture,
brass buttons
tumbling to the floor.
Who’s it for?
Who’s the audience
for this bravura?
Maybe the world’s
just trompe l’oeil,
appearances laid out
to dazzle the eye;
who could see through this
to any world beyond forms?
Maybe the costume’s
the whole show,
all of revelation
we’ll be offered.
So? Show me what’s not
a world of appearances.
Autumn’s a grand old drag
in torched and tumbled chiffon
striking her weary pose.
Talk about your mellow
fruitfulness! Smoky alto,
thou hast thy music,
too; unforgettable,
those October damasks,
the dazzling kimono
worn, dishabille,
uncountable curtain calls
in these footlights’
dusky, flattering rose.
The world’s made fabulous
by fabulous clothes.

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