Friday, February 25, 2005

157. The Ambassador

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Three days
they kept us waiting,
polite at all times,
correct, sympathetic,
yet adamant.

Our quarters
were quite luxurious,
our meals excellent;
the wines, delicacies,
rare and exquisite.

gnawed at our bones;
confined to our quarters,
restless, testy, querulous,
as if with an itch
we could not scratch.


on the third evening
they summoned me,
the youngest, deaf to appeals
from my companions:

a long corridor
lined with tapestries,
thickly carpeted,
torch-lit, lightly scented,
a distant hint of music.

Gently disrobed
in a high-roofed antechamber,
led to a hall of sunken baths,
steaming, warm, and cold,
I was thoroughly scrubbed
by a host of attendants.


Pinkly glowing,
every scrap of bodily hair,
save only the locks on my head,
closely shaved; protesting,
I was firmly over-ruled.

Shimmering robes
of deep-dyed purple silk,
buttersoft calfskin boots;
emeralds, winking rubies
on a diadem of beaten gold.

Pumice and powder,
a slow final application
of complicated scents,
mountain violets, ambergris, myrrh,
then placed in a palanquin
like a basket of new-laid eggs.


More waiting began;
straining my ears
I could barely ascertain
the coughs, the murmurs,
of otherwise silent bearers.

The high piping of flutes
sounded of a sudden closer,
underlain with a staccato beat
of tambourines, a throb of drums,
behind a deep uncanny drone.

in some strange and unknown form
was building up close by;
drowsy, enervated, confused,
enclosed by silken walls,
I fell asleep.


The official report
is to be my responsibility:
with no explanation given,
roughly, even rudely,
we were shoved upon the road.

My companions,
laughing at my appearance
when I was tipped back among them,
half-asleep, hairless, reeking of scent,
no longer speak to me.

The young princess,
the object of our journey,
is reported to have left the city,
hostile, cold, and angry.
My report requires great concentration,
a little nap will do no harm.