On one of your sundials
there is an inscription:
Sine Umbra Nihil —
without shadow nothing —

but in summer you float
in cream and azure
a fête without fear
a silken Montgolfier

in sashes and medals
from the court of the Sun King
a liner of satin
among the flies of the meadows

lazing on hot air
breasting the billows
with warm rain on dry grass
stirring the asphodels

under green lightning
of cloudbursts at evening
which drum the striped awnings
of your rigged marquees

guyed between heavens
and their river’s reflections
top down and base up
and with a river’s illusion

of perpetual motion
worlds carried on still backs
cirrus and alto, moonlit
sticklebacks and minnows

zigzag and cutback
through schools in Tranquillity
in Tears and in Dreams
in the wake of your pleasure

steamer of nimbus
and the light-hearted Brut
an artillery of corks
green barrels and grapeshot

and dapper bombardiers
whose aim is no higher
than their own desires,
the premier crew

in their private Azores
emptying vessels
just off the Bermudas
a port without storms

but your landfall escapes me
your palms’ secret treaties
your gardens with walls
formal mazes and fountains

your magician entrances
an audience of mirrors
your Age d’Or
and private theatricals

your powder compacts
a state of blusher and glances
your soft-tops and Spas
your l’Etat — c’est moi

but I have seen you
when you were as lonely
as the first star
of an evening sky

and I’ve waited for you
at the door of summer
peering into the darkness
like a frazzled Noah

on the deck of the Ark
feels the dove near
across the floodwater
loading her bill

with all that’s to bear
in a fresh shoot of olive
frail leaves of silver
with a weight of vast anchors:

but your Fate is lightness,
and stillness, and brightness,
imprisoned in flowers
and pentameters

far from the war
safe from all harm
in the arms of your lover
dozing to the blackest, hip-hop lullaby

how slowly you rise
an airbubble in honey
like the full moon over Troy
like Paris and Helen

who bend to embrace
like mutual suns
burning all shadows
into the one

sighing eclipse…

*     *     *

But there is a place
where there are nothing but shadows
the shades of the dead
gather in crowds

and there is a little grey dust
raised by their sandals
and a torpid breeze
that circles the Underworld

Among them are Ulysses
Menelaus and Hector
and many proud heroes
whose fame burned the skies

but the one that I love
stands apart and alone
his eyes cast down
to the earth’s tenderness

his greatness was loss
to fall, to be no one —
and he is Achilles,
Humility’s footman