A madly expensive painted bowl
which ruined my uncle in Babylon
stood always on a lynx-legged table
in the middle of his dingy room.
Crawling on the floor, desperately
looking up to this bowl,
I was too little to see
more than its outer wall,
its antelopes with braided beards
and pollen-stained butterfly-men,
its lions with shrewd turquoise smiles
and scarabs rolling a rouge-faced moon.
As soon as I could stand on my feet,
I peeped, breathless, inside the bowl,
but there was nothing in it,
only a sheeny sphere of cobalt blue,
not a single scale of a beryl-barked tree,
not a carmine plume of a freckled god,
just one tiny streak of a sunset ray
trapped in it when the glaze was poured.
Beneath the outer wall of my nascent life,
bursting with breathing and multi-skied,
I wondered what it would be like
when I grew up enough to glance inside.
Now I can, but see nothing at all
save a cobalt sweep of a faceless tide
and a flickering flake of my sudden soul
trapped in the cooling glaze of time.
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