Always halfway between you and your double,
Like Washington, I cannot tell a lie.
When the dark queen demands in her querulous treble,
“Who is the fairest?” inaudibly I reply,

“Beauty, your highness, dwells in the clouded cornea
Of the self-deceived beholder, whereas Truth,
According to film moguls of California,
Lies in make-up, smoke-and-mirrors, gin and vermouth,

Or the vinous second-pressings of Veritas,
Much swilled at Harvard. The astronomers’ speculum
Reveals it, and to the politician’s cheval-glass
It’s that part of a horse he cannot distinguish from

His elbow; but it’s also the upside-down
Melodies of Bach fugues; the right-to-left
Writing of Leonardo, a long-term loan
From Hebrew, retrograde fluencies in deft,

Articulate penmanship. An occasional Louis
Might encounter it in the corridors of Versailles;
It evades the geometrician’s confident QE
D; but the constant motion from ground to sky

And back again of the terrible Ferris Wheel
Sackville describes in A Mirror for Magistrates
Conveys some semblance of the frightening feel
Of the mechanical heartlessness of Fate,

The ring-a-ding-Ding-an-Sich. Yet think how gaily
In the warped Fun House glass one’s flesh dissolves
In shape and helpless laughter, unlike the Daily
Mirror in which New Yorkers saw themselves.

It’s when no one’s around that I’m most truthful,
In a world as timeless as before The Fall.
No one to reassure that she’s still youthful,
I gaze untroubled at the opposite wall.

Light fades, of course, with the on-coming of dusk;
I faithfully note the rheostat dial of day
That will rise in brilliance, weaken as it must
Through each uncalibrated shade of gray,

One of them that of winter afternoons,
Desolate, leaden, and in its burden far
Deeper than darkness, engrossing in its tones
Those shrouded regions where the meanings are.”

This Issue

April 12, 2001