I summon up Panofskv from his bed
    Among the famous dead
To build a tomb which, since I am not read,
Suffers the stone’s mortality instead;

Which, by the common iconographies
    Of simple visual ease,
Usurps the place of the complexities
Of sound survivors once preferred to noise:

Monkeys fixed on one bough, an almost holy
    Nightmarish sloth, a tree
Of parrots in a pride of family,
Immortal skunks, unaromatically;

Some deaf bats in a cave, a porcupine
    Quill-less, a superfine
Flightless eagle, and, after them, a line
Of geese, unnavigating by design;

Dogs in the frozen haloes of their barks,
    A hundred porous arks
Aground and lost, where elephants like quarks
Ape mother mules or imitation sharks—

And each of them half-venerated by
    A mob, impartially
Scaled, finned, or feathered, all before a dry
Unable mouth, symmetrically awry.

But how shall I, in my brief space, describe
    A tomb so vast, a tribe
So desperately existent for a scribe
Knowingly of the fashions’ diatribe,

I who have sought time’s memory afoot,
    Grateful for every root
Of trees that fill the garden with their fruit,
Their fragrance and their shade? Even as I do it,

I see myself unnoticed on the stair
    That, underneath a clear
Welcome of bells, had promised me a fair
Attentive hearing’s joy, sometime, somewhere.

  • Edgar Bowers, “The Poet Orders His Tomb” from Collected Poems (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997). Copyright © 1997 by Edgar Bowers. Reprinted with the permission of the Estate of Edgar Bowers.

  • Source: Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997)

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