japonisme: ornament

11 June 2010



1. Peony silks,
in wax-light:
that petal-sheen,

gold or apricot or rose
candled into-
what to call it,

lumina, aurora, aureole?
About gowns,
the Old Masters,

were they ever wrong?
This penitent Magdalen's
wrapped in a yellow

so voluptuous
she seems to wear
all she's renounced;

this boy angel
isn't touching the ground,
but his billow

of yardage refers
not to heaven
but to pleasure's

textures, the tactile
sheers and voiles
and tulles

which weren't made
to adorn the soul.
Eternity's plainly nude;

the naked here and now
longs for a little
dressing up. And though

they seem to prefer
the invisible, every saint
in the gallery

flaunts an improbable
tumble of drapery,
a nearly audible liquidity

(bright brass embroidery,
satin's violin-sheen)
raveled around the body's

plain prose; exquisite
(dis?)guises; poetry,
music, clothes.


Nothing needs to be this lavish.
Even the words I'd choose
for these leaves;

intricate, stippled, foxed, tortoise, mottled, splotched -jeweled adjectives

for a forest by Fabergé,
all cloisonné and enamel,
a yellow grove golden

in its gleaming couture,
brass buttons tumbling to the floor.

Who's it for?
Who's the audience
for this bravura?

Maybe the world's
just trompe l'oeil,
appearances laid out

to dazzle the eye;
who could see through this
to any world beyond forms?

Maybe the costume's
the whole show,
all of revelation

we'll be offered.
So? Show me what's not
a world of appearances.

Autumn's a grand old drag
in torched and
tumbled chiffon
striking her weary pose.

Talk about your mellow
fruitfulness! Smoky alto,
thou hast thy music,

too; unforgettable,
those October damasks,
the dazzling kimono

worn, dishabille,
uncountable curtain calls
in these footlights'

dusky, flattering rose.
The world's made fabulous
by fabulous clothes.

Mark Doty

From Atlantis by Mark Doty, published by Harper Perennial.
Copyright © 1995 by Mark Doty.

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Blogger lotusgreen said...

first of all.... i really thought i had run this poem before, but i just could not find it!

second-- now you have to picture me: black sweat pants, t-shirt (no sayings!), necklace or scarf -- and i shave my head!

suddenly, i'm restocking my embroidery thread and bead stashes, re-working old flower prints, and cutting up my clothes to "repurpose" the parts like those ingenious women on etsy do.

i suddenly want the clothes that i've always only drooled over and envied. the past.

we'll see what happens.

11 June, 2010 14:21  
Blogger Poesis said...

Ah... in love again. ♥
Pure gorgeousness this post is.

19 June, 2010 01:59  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i love your response poesis -- thanks.

ornamentation is as old as the species, and not held to this species alone. it would be interesting to know the genetic component of that.

i suppose that we, like the bowerbirds, just want to call attention to ourselves.

19 June, 2010 09:55  
Anonymous theue said...

mark doty and vintage embellishments...a perfect friday.

25 June, 2010 09:41  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

a reader who knows mark doty and loves vintage embellishments. a perfect friday!

25 June, 2010 11:02  

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