Ghazal: Bembo to Lucrezia

I want every art to be yours; every shadow
In the palace to be contained by your shadow.

It’s by your uncontested form that the pupil
Hurts to know beauty’s force, like dust motes in shadow.

Our love’s majestic compromise annihilates
An empire’s wrested maps; over all, your shadow.

In the ovals that blank out the statuary,
In Caesars’ eyes – only one thing moves, your shadow.

Your silken pallia trains desire, and hangs
A ghost from its drape, sings clouds shot through with shadow.

Lions bleat and lambs roar, both flesh out your precise
And suggestive shape – an hourglass’s shadow.

Beneath a smoky bell jar, your lithe body’s mass
Mints my realm’s coin from ingots of dream and shadow.

You, excessive as renascent stone but soft, soft –
 A battle-fallen shield’s boss of crimson shadow.

A cold mountain creek’s flow blankets with greening moss;
Your features transfix such frames and times in shadow.

You are aesthetic excess; you tame the hot noon;
You teach the day not to withdraw into shadow.

Your ankles, wrists are marbled water spit and splashed
In icy-columned trinkets across the courtyard’s shadow.

The fresh bones of morning bleach and fade behind you.
In ruined delight – you walk the tiles with your shadow.

You neutralize the sweet splendor of stone fountains.
Your captivated gardens wait for your shadow.

“Death to the evening star!” cries the sun all along.
At dusk your raven hair wraps my naked shadow.

Imagination and your smooth flesh dance with fire.
Ambition drowns painter and sculptor in shadow.

I hear art’s ecstasy groan with your body’s fit,
O private country, my love, my trembling shadow!

See – failing us both, the terraced lights from the sea
Glimmer below heaven, above the law’s shadow.

O cardinal temptress, my blade blushes hot and quick;
But you seal your royal pacts with knives in shadow.

Palace shadows creep across the moon, cradle love
With embraces, curdle love’s grimace in shadow.

Hilted steel whispers its secret to each of us:
“Divide the bruised moonlit blue from ocean’s shadow.”

The crescent skies kiss through the twilight’s principate –
The one that shares borders with me and your shadow.


  1. Jonathan,

    I had to try this one out – never hoid of it befaw.

    I found it much more difficult than it looked!


  2. I’ll re-read in 10 to 20 years’ time.

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