Clare Hornsby

home: poetry


Don’t leave me alone at the end of the eighteenth century

Your prima donna, butterfly in the back of her mouth
Fluttering in the high notes
Growing with the breath
Bursts out with short-lived brilliance.

The bent feet of church princeling and ageing noble
Horned into red-heeled shoes
Dance your dense minuets while the band plays out the century.

Ideas sparkling off your small white hands
As abundant as water
And unaccustomed as jewellery.
You dress up the age, not to scorn
But for joy.

Mozart, o my heart
My Raphael, my sacra conversazione
Behind nonchalant putti on the tapestries
Significant gestures are stirring
The swords of the Horatii clash across the rhythm of the dance.

Don’t leave me alone at the end of the eighteenth century
On the Isle of Cythera
Where all acts of love are sterile and silent.
Don’t look now –
The groping fingered harlequins carry tracts in their pockets.

Silent stone Pan wreathed in pale roses
Stands blank above the lovers.
Dusty satin dresses wearing thin
What is the melody they hear?
Your music for the end of time.

Mozart, o my heart
My Apollo Belvedere
Don’t leave me in the day of wrath.
Foreign soldiers clatter into Italy
Deaf to the screams of the statues crated with straw
And carried off north.

Don’t leave me in the room with Venus and Mars
Only a pink silk cushion protects me.
Their weighty pagan petting brings down the house of cards.

Don’t leave me there in 1791
Call me, call me and I will come.
Not for your perfection, but your truth
Which is the world’s inheritance.

O Mozart, o my heart
Vermeer van Delft, my pearl, my girl
I know it now; from artifice comes art
And music from the captured muse unfurls.