The Green Vault, #17
I received him in the dark. I had come to bear everything
bar being seen. Behold :: a naked, finger-long, ivory boy
seated on an ivory skull would make, if he could breathe,
a perfect ivory bubble with his pipe.
He doesn’t wear but is the crown of “Contrefait Sphere
with an Allegory of Transience”, Jacob Zeller,
Dresden, 1611. Here, bone is flesh, off-white as if off-white
was pushed from white by force into a further force
barely restrained in his raised legs, raised arms,
blown hair. The skull he sits on brings bone back to bone again,
but under it revolves, or would revolve, if we could touch,
a virtuoso piece. A turner shapes and hollows out
a bone-sphere by machine. From scrap he carves portrait medallions
to see behind round windows in the sphere. In Zeller’s “Contrefait”,
the portraits live inside inside, in an incised, revolving if we could touch it
world inside a world inside a world. One is not free to turn
and not turn in, turn into, turn away, turn back. The prince
The Green Vault, #18
is dead at twenty-seven, green-white as a linden bloom.
A sister whimpers though she drowned.
A daughter wakes to feel her mouth foam-filled
as her mother dies in a distant bed.
Drought in summer. Lightning without rain, and then
a rain, and then long rain.
The Green Vault, #70
Behold :: “Cherry Pit Carved with One Hundred Eighty-Five Heads”
A mirabilia! We have a wonderwork in gold, enamel,
pearl, and cherry pit, where, so small, and
cheek-to-cheek, these faces can be said
to have held on to their bones,
the sort that thinking puts inside a mirror and recoils from,
How many faces are there in a face?
and these faces can be seen as pressed by other faces all the way (not far) around,
all of which, of whom, (if they could see) they could not see,
not face. Some press sidelong
against a faceless skull. All
in all, it bears a mounting
as if to have been made
an earring of.
Kathleen Peirce teaches poetry in the MFA program at Texas State University. “The Green Vault,” a poem in 85 parts, will be her fifth collection. Her work has been published widely and awarded the AWP Prize, The Iowa Prize, The William Carlos Williams Award, and supported by the Whiting Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation.