… And once, between two deserts, a lusher country.
We stopped at a house, obtaining each a room.
A man of cheerful years and honest smiles,
wife and daughter attending, a sweetened wine
and dried melons served. We drank a surfeit.
He then went out, not returning for six days.
The chuckling of streams restored us. We spent those days
swimming, or drinking the merriment of that country.
But also at night we came to know its surfeit
when the lamp was subtle in the centre of the room
hanging like a cloud in the ambience of wine
as wife and daughter came and went with smiles,
who, to where we sprawled dozing, with smiles
later came, disrobing us of the days
in the desert. Their kisses, like a lively wine
aroused us, they took our flesh for familiar country
and lay, seeking our delight, till the room
grew lighter, and morning flashed its green surfeit …
You say nothing. I’ll guess your response, that surfeit
is a wily merchant with an expansive smile;
promising gardens, he leads to a bleak room
where walls are mirrors to the numbed days
barring one window which gives on parched country
where fabulous women pass carrying wine.
I have no quarrel, yet I remember wine
light as a musician’s fingers, a surfeit
that led us on like a tune, broaching country
that opened like a hand, or a face that smiles
suddenly without reason. Here were days
freed from the consequence of days. Each room,
of course, we paid for, but not the garden that the room
had been in time, not the limbo that the wine
ushered. This was years ago, and days
in many courts, uneasy at their surfeit
I’ve since spent, observing the effort in smiles
as courtiers taught me the manners of their country.
Yet, my friend, cellmate, sharer of this cheerless surfeit
of bad wine and our guards’ threatening smiles,
I would not relive those days, nor recover that country.
© Alan Gould