Jan 142011


by William Doreski

Poplars line the Agout’s banks

where rapids stutter in foam

spiked with reeds and sprigs of willow.

Here servants erect the trestles,

lay wide oak planks and cover them

with cloth dyed the personal scarlet

of Montpellier. Venison pastry,

a gilded platter of boar meat,

silver plates of duck and peacock,

florets of lettuce, hot rye loaves,

ginger preserves, salt and pepper,

tubs of butter. Arnaut de Maruelh

eats heartily as Her Ladyship

and the others, and when finished

stuffs his pockets with oranges,

figs and raisins, tunes his viol,

and sings a nightingale lyric

that will outlive him by maybe

a thousand years. His linen cap,

white trimmed with dark blue silk,

his blue woolen fur-edged robe,

his heavy forest green mantle,

red cendal, buff leather belt

render him too elegant

to critique. The song rises

and falls, the river scuffs along,

and the lady for whom the song sings

itself makes courteous noises

and lightly touches Arnaut’s hand.

His trained expressionless face

smothers the resulting flush,

and the love-clichés he utters

are elegant enough to deny.