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The Masque of Death
A fair oasis in the purest desert.
A man sits leaning back against a palm.
His wife lies by him looking at the sky.
You’re not asleep?
You’re not asleep?No, I can hear you. Why?
I said the incense tree’s on fire again.
You mean the Burning Bush?
You mean the Burning Bush?The Christmas Tree.
I shouldn’t be surprised.
I shouldn’t be surprised.The strangest light!
There’s a strange light on everything today.
The myrrh tree gives it. Smell the rosin burning?
The ornaments the Greek artificers
Made for the Emperor Alexius,
The Star of Bethlehem, the pomegranates,
The birds, seem all on fire with Paradise.
And hark, the gold enameled nightingales
Are singing. Yes, and look, the Tree is troubled.
Someone’s caught in the branches.
Someone’s caught in the branches.So there is.
He can’t get out.
He can’t get out.He’s loose! He’s out!
He can’t get out.He’s loose! He’s out!It’s God.
I’d know Him by Blake’s picture anywhere.
Now what’s He doing?
Now what’s He doing?Pitching throne, I guess,
Here by our atoll.
Here by our atoll.Something Byzantine.
(The throne’s a plywood flat, prefabricated,That God pulls lightly upright on its hingesAnd stands beside, supporting it in place.)
Perhaps for an Olympic Tournament,
Or Court of Love.
Or Court of Love.More likely Royal Court—
Or Court of Law, and this is Judgment Day.
I trust it is. Here’s where I lay aside
My varying opinion of myself
And come to rest in an official verdict.
Suffer yourself to be admired, my love,
As Waller says.
As Waller says.Or not admired. Go over
And speak to Him before the others come.
Tell Him He may remember you: you’re Job.
Oh, I remember well: you’re Job, my Patient.
How are you now? I trust you’re quite recovered,
And feel no ill effects from what I gave you.
Gave me in truth: I like the frank admission.
I am a name for being put upon.