[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.
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repealed from bedded earth.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–
the sacral pattern changed.
Dido on her pyre.
Spiring hair chiffons to lick the faulted sky.