- after edouard manet's olympia, oil on canvas. (image below)
you have slaved, my sweet queen, toiling
at the feet of empire, your heels to the fire
but "negress", you are my nation. you, my
love, are my 'lady of the room', my odalisque
in apron and sack-cloth / more flora than
the emperors will ever secure for themselves...
soul by soul, scar removes scar / touch us,
tar-like; in embrace black is ablute / we are
soot and silk in joyful longing.
olympia? she can only lay there, wanting figs
and breeding bedbugs / she cries in her sleep
and mourns like vesuvius, her smothered
lamentations flowing into pillow / poor her.
you rub her down, my dark sage, in rosemary
and thyme but she is thistle in our eyes.
you tend to the care of her abject porcelain,
basting breasts and ass in the plumes of
privilege, this pot roast of a woman marinated
by your hands, awaits rotisserie. change her
bedpans then turn her on the spit... line
her torso and thighs with russets and celery...
do not bruise the flower in her hair
or the apple in her mouth!
braise her skin in sandalwood and rose
petals staring at her blemishes until she
blushes, mistaking evil-eye for infatuation...
"mistress, your nightgown." bow, your
brow low hiding the contempt for having
to wait hand and foot on this frail pitiful
thing, but hope for solidarity. maybe
she'll understand, acknowledging
the sisterhood-of-servitude binding
you both. hope for smiles but if
she snarls, well, well then...
remember, queen, the cure for rabies / you've
been bitten by much better breeds and she too
will soon recede, as all do, into the compost of
concubines. and to that end, hemlock is kept in
secret cupboards in the kitchen; signal the cook
by singing "the king and rook have castled, so
pawn takes queen." then return to your mistress,
the heirloom wasting away in the room-for-whores,
with plums piled high and pillowed about goblets
of wine / just smile and nod... bow, brow low.
purge her clean with midnight paregorics.
whisper spells to the fair maiden
"forgive me, O, Olympia, but
i have no more life to lien you."
soften the blow, her sheets a shroud. then
clean the cottons; smooth the linens. you've
always allowed her kindness. she is figurehead,
but you rule the roost and very few will think
you, darkie, to be so devious... dismiss her with
care then come quickly home / embrace me,
i will halo you because - scar removes scar.
behind our walls of thatch and tin, we two
usurp the throne; courtesans of the dust...
mouth-to-mouth we are magna carta
- magenta / black magic.
jesters always bray in awe at finely dyed
plumage, but every peacock has a claw
to cleave and to cut, to have and to hold...
that is why i adulate you. head bowed, eyes
closed, lips to palm: i worship you; all
of these poems are your pedestal;
not just adore...