Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Poem: "Pilgrim Flask" (Revised)

(Image from the Peabody Essex Museum)

Pilgrim Flask

Here we have thirst
And patience, from the first
—Marianne Moore, “An Egyptian Pulled Glass Bottle in the Shape of a Fish”

Ming Dynasty export to Catholic Spain,
which rode the longest overland trade route
to come to rest on its one spreading foot,
the floral sprays ringed by a dotted chain,
the coat of arms a country’s bold motive—
ferrying spices from the Philippines,
harvesting silver from Peruvian mines—
this bottle makes a bloody wedding gift.

Take it, my sister, take it. Marriage
has traded what is here for what will be
amidst the fears of crooks and banditry,
and molded, for a few, a golden age
with massacre, disease, prison and rape,
yet keeps a promise intact in full view.
A dream of milky white and cobalt blue,
this old dispenser gives an older shape.

Inflated goatskin on a twist of twine,
it saved a restless man dying of thirst.
For the faithful, the clay ampulla nursed
the holy olive from the healing shrine.
Please take it home, though it is fraught with risk,
this worldly relic, this ceramic camel.
No saints, but we ride as far as we are able.
No water, but we hold on to the flask.

for YP

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