The Queen of Cups
On a mound of sand before the City Hall
a houri stands, and a Foreign Legionnaire.
(You have to imagine the palms, the fort,
and her father, who hates the foreign swine.)
This is Araby, this is an island,
taken with a narrow-angle lens
to shut out the dome, the pit, the crane,
and the wild-eyed litigants, dense as buffalo,
stampeding, summons in hand, up the courthouse steps.
They are so intent on their pretending
that the Queen on the facade is never seen,
her cups unnoticed. Marble, she looks down,
pours down on them from her gilt samovar,
cup by cup, the waters of the world:
the clear spring of first morning;
the immersion that blesses, that cleanses; polar thaws -
and they are drowned. So soon, their desert
is mud, and they are grappling
grotesque as midway wrestlers.
Noble speeches issue from soiled lips,
and O but they are lewd!
And O but they don't know it!
And still again down pour the upturned cups
of the queen whose only aim is to end all islands:
the Amazon, the Snake, the Okeechobee,
and that warm bath in which are moistened
sheets to restrain the mad.
Down it washes them, into the pit, past the shovels,
and they will be in that Mole Hall on show forever,
encased in glass, and stuffed, and the guide will say,
"Look you. Here are two lovers. Their breed has vanished."
But all this works through time, and is invisible,
unfelt by the two on the sand pretending love
and by the blindfold queen, disguised as justice.
They say instead, in the lines they have been given,
"How the sand burns. How hot it is. How dry."