She wore only an expression of fatal illusions,
The power to capture and tear off at whim
Those moths which fluttered
Low, bright and light around her.
Memory served no purpose while in her presence,
For she would but lift her eyes and sweep them
Over the brow of lovers – fatal she was,
A darkened Madonna cut out of hall
Of black sighings.
Stop now, all who would have some fear
For themselves, for once over the threshold
Only a tear shall fall, and serve as a vaporous conclusion
In the manuals that are lodged in her halls.
Come close though, and we shall lift the curtains,
Peeping through, we shall mingle our eyes
With the candles that flicker – how heavy
The air is, soaked with longing, submerged with
That perfume despair – see there a chair
Which seems a monument to those who did cross
The threshold, there waited for seeming eternities –
Mere seconds they were.
Then along the corridor they were taken
Into the chamber that served as her throne-room –
Whilst she, a vast, undefinable substance, was hid
Behind a cloud of incense –
See how her eyes smart, how quick is the heart,
How trembling the limbs. There is no sunlight here,
Only fear makes a star appear on the furthermost wall,
Whispering voices and gently persuasive hands.
Suddenly, behind you, you know that she stands,
Her hand soft as a gentle death,
She wears violets on her breast.
You do not turn, only look in the mirror and see her.
Then, above the turn of your collar
Two, three fingers appear, and lift away
Your garments slowly, like a daffodil unsheathed
Until you stand naked, with only
Your beating heart to make movement.
Soon, across a lake of fur you are led:
These same hands take yours and pull you
Towards towards, ah – what Towards!
Then upon, and inside, a tent of delicate furnishings
The loom of feeling is worked, the lute begins gently to sing –
Then you are found, shuttered at the break of day
On the edges of a wood, or hidden
Half-in and half-out of some doorway –
A rose by your side, seems less than you
Seems less than you to be alive.
Now see we, we are hidden and free,
Yet let us continue to watch these strangers
Who would try their lots, though every man
Is hand-picked, like the choicest fruit.
Now some come and some go – some are golden
In colour and lithe of limb, some tall and dark,
And very slim; some are bronzed the darkest red,
And some so pale they could almost be dead.
Yet one comes, who seems a creature
Formed from light itself, so fine the head
That gracefully moves, for he is born of the living
And not of the dead. See he stands –
A pearl-bright lightness makes a pool
Like mother-of-pearl; he looks at the rooms
And the furnishings – meditates upon its hell –
Not for him the whim of dark passion,
Nor the smell of incense which swims
Dark and dangerous through his limbs,
Nor the richness of the heavy twilight
Which is the colour of this place – eternally bright.
He would cast a shadow here, and it would burn
As the sun does at mid-day in a Mediterranean year.
See the messengers beckon him into the room:
He brings a gift encased in a shell – offers it before him –
Being a figurine that seems.
Joy wrote this poem in 1975.