Dido on her Bed

Zodiac by Alphonse Mucha, 1896

[Zodiac by Alphonse Mucha, 1896]

Dido on her Bed

The night unravels. Cambric strands

in shreds unshrivel doubt.

A ship sets sail. A swaddled mast

unwraps a gasp of white and Dido,

watching from the perfumed bed,

is still before the morning.

Memory drags a damask quilt

across the dawning sky, strains

the morning light. Its silhouette

motif retraces soft-edged stains

of shadow on the bed. She trails

a finger in its dark and braided

residue of swathing limbs.

She wanders into every crevice.

Vague penumbrous spaces echo

night’s sojourn. Madras wrapped.

Olive skin.

A parting sail.

Her hand exfoliates the silken sheet, denuding skin in minor plucks

The shadows rip like deadened vines

repealed from bedded earth.

The clinging amber hairs she peels

from paths down shoulders, arms, a soft

recess beneath her breast.

And she is naked, left undone,

like golden thread retreieved from where

it pierced the quilter’s cloth.

The ship, a  lessening lessening white

swims to a single stitch; it tangles,

rips, a needle piercing cloth

–the whole motif is shifted–

faulted now,

the sacral pattern changed.

Dido on her pyre.

Spiring hair chiffons to lick the faulted sky.


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