as if Minerva sank one foot in the fountain
and poured her rival off—
only to hear in her victory-moment
a worshipper offer verbatim the prayer
Sulis drew from his mouth before,
as lovers change loved ones more than words,
only to find her eyes in the mirror
swam with someone else's tears.
into the trampled midden she ruled:
Sulis's mother, her predecessor,
recipient of plaques and the clasps of hoods,
songs and bones, the model of a lion,
who vanished after Sulis did.
There are several ways of dissolving:
to soak yourself in the baths is one;
to let the mud meet above your head is another.
credulous glare, the warm
mouse making its way down her gullet,
surrendering fur and ears and claws
the better to join her entourage,
and the story of how she started flying
her own feather bolster and long white ribbon,
displaced from the palace
not by a mistress, but by an avatar.
discarded vessels, void of fluid,
ache for Sulis to love them again, not leave them
there in the succulent grass.
Already she is forgetting their faces;
she leans to spit in her lover's mouth
and makes a bridge, a casual suspension
involving them both,
like spider-silk draped from cactus to cactus.
Nothing beyond their bodies concerns them,
nothing beyond the pools of light
their own lamps throw.
They did what they could in their time, and now
the boys who briefly rest in their shadows
cannot matter much to them,
as much as the veiled
flies on cows' faces bother the cows.
The heart thrives on syncresis. Sulis
hearts each man she kisses,
each costume she wears, each nakedness;
like formal dresses
she carries them with her into the cloud,
its floating parade
of people who laundered her difficult feelings
until she put them aside.
Poetry London Autumn 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Frances Leviston
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission