Apologia Pro Vita Sua
Logan, William, The Virginia Quarterly Review
In the iced depths of Suffolk's one thatched church,
the gilt saints swaggered off to jury duty
they'd packed the stable loft, the beetled woodpile,
masked like raccoons in paint. Only the stare
of crucifixion saved them from the pyre.
Daughter, you were no medieval beauty lost
in the dissolution of the priories.
You looked at me from a smuggled photograph,
your mouth like a cat's mouth, half scowl, half grin.
How many years before our plot to meet
came hobbling like a cold conspiracy?
The old sins crouch where no one thinks to find them
some have been burnt, some dragged from cleansing fire.
You faced the wall and never said a word.
Middle age is a holiday from death.
England engraved its landscape on the wall
corn-colored, thin-lipped, graying like a dawn.
If men become the portrait of their mothers,
what would I have been, without your beautiful lie?
Passing the entrance to arched galleries,
I spied a face I knew, though centuries dead.
The varnished portraits hung in dust-kissed ranks,
as if the gold-touched Rembrandts, oily Van Eycks,
had mourned the souls their damned souls meant to save.
Promises kneel beneath a pediment
where mother's buttressed eye, father's chipped brow,
were named the spoils. You said, They're my eyes now.
Each time I gazed at you, I saw myself.
If part of us is nature, part is not.
That guilt-starved glimpse of you before you knew
fragile as water, endless as a stare,
the eggshell cools within the egg's embrace.
All love is glazed with secrets, like a god
few sacrifice to the memories of sins.
Men watched you like old lovers lost in pleasure
as you swanned across the last flares of the empire
invisible as Caesar's ghost-fed legions.
I was the ghost-eye swathed in bandages,
my headache pressed against the plaster walls
whose candors might restore the family line:
great-grandmother in her tea shop, father's debts,
my last spoiled cousin whose car ploughed toward a cliff.
The engine of an ordinary day
purrs in disorder, as if it wished to drown
the river spent in opalescent whorls.
Beneath pendulous and unimportant clouds,
the flinching bridegroom lurches toward his bride
thirty years late, stained tie askew, hurtling
across the apse, toward the priest's dramatic hand.
These after-days, each dawn grinds down the gears.
After the wretched, toilsome, painful kiss
of courtship, weeks of it, the swan's nest stands
abandoned. Would you have been better unborn?
Love loves the affliction of its audience;
yet when I grieve, I mark the years from your birth.
What father doesn't want to kill his young?
And down we plunged to fenland's spongy mire,
which swallowed Norman gendarmes, Domesday manors
the chattel property of Latin grammar. …