Watteau

Ange Mlinko

                                     ‘No Trespassing’, read the blackened sign,
prompting a wry laugh. Scorched earth brooks no law.
The blazes happened months ago in the news;
now a wilderness prodigal with chartreuse,
fresh brushwork as far as Santa Barbara,
set off brilliantly the carbonised pine.

                                     Incendiaries go where they are sent.
It wasn’t just expensive landscape daubed
with embers; afterwards, winter torrents ground
raindrops through whirlwinds to thunder on the ground.
Mudslides came to heavy rest. Mushrooms knobbed
new doors for the permanent resident.

                                     Fires even crept toward the Getty,
where you and I walked. Bridal travertine’s
a flame-resistant dress for art veiled in glass.
The sprinkler system half-camouflaged in grass
wasn’t for the drought-friendly evergreens,
but defence against glowing confetti.

                                     Item 1: The Wonder Cabinet.
Doors and drawers ajar, it seemed to say
that there was nowhere to hide; given a scare,
every eye in its head returned such a stare,
a dovecote emptied at once. (Judgment Day.
All Souls’. Debts discharged to the Infinite.)

                                     Item 2: Venus. Someone wake her
(as Bacchus and the maenad are doing)
so she can flee the place where her nudity
draws out the peeping fruit of the lemon tree.
Perhaps its light cologne is so wooing,
she may deliquesce before flames take her.

                                     Item 3: La Surprise. A Watteau
recovered after two hundred years is
possibly retardant. Tuning his guitar,
the musician observes two lovers; they are
oblivious. Beyond, a precipice
drolly cleaves the composition in two.

                                     (The dog, a bit player, sides with him.)
You are still too green to share my despair
that Wonder, Love, Art, each represent a stage.
The far sensuousness of mist will engage –
like the blue plumbago that brushed our hair –
then dissolve into sexless seraphim.