by Michael Shindler (December 2020)
Fig Tree, Marsden Hartley, 1924
A Great Ox
A great ox like a hill in a barren field
Standing black against the dawn
With body once broken, now healed,
With silver-mended horns and brawn:
He pushed past the sun
And the mountains, unplowed immensities,
And with his silver won
A briar-crown of vanities.
A purple abandoned in the dust
Of an impressionist painting;
A music fit for fame and fainting;
Wrought iron meant to rust.
What—in the tones ascending,
The colors caught and blending;
What—the metal mired in time:
Poems all—with a pall of rhyme.
The hues fade; the roar dies;
Genius glimmers to the grave;
Beauty itself closes its eyes
And sleeps a winter in its cave.
A satyr singing in the mist,
A fig tree behind him,
A bangle on his wrist,
And the world at his whim:
'The clouds race, the birds chase,
And night comes like a thief;
Songs are sweet, men must eat,
But glory tastes of grief.'
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