A libation bowl pours oil upon
The sacred flame of Feronia
The goddess much esteemed by female slaves

For having left her master’s house
The freed and former maid Fabia
Has become the foremost weaver
Of bed-throws in all Rome

They are enchantingly made   –
A memory of savannahs
Water-lands and marshes
Where cup-shaped hollows
Of cattails   reeds   and sedges
Are built by long-legged cranes
Their low and purring contact-calls
Form amid the rushes
Not only hidden nests but constant
Pair-bonds lasting lifetimes

To promote The New Fidelity
And quite co-incidentally
Fabia’s designs are all the rage




Preserved by the dry sands of Egypt
Toy dolls and pottery marbles
Miniature jungle animals of lead

If children of the ancient world
Were brusquely raised to behave
As small inconvenient adults
These say otherwise   –

A portrait of a girl
With coiled and groomed red hair
Her serious grown-up expression   –
If she survives this modern atmosphere

Bologna’s Alma Mata will display her
In the Great Hall at the Feast of the Assumption
And Dante disremembering that day
Will call her “Beatrice”


Bernard Saint
Illustration: Claire Palmer




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