A Purchase
Of Porcelain
Because the king
decrees that every Jew
must buy his wedding-right
in unsold porcelain
from the royal china works.

he stands, an amorous Jew,
gazing at luminous
suns and moons arrayed
on cloths of velvet blue,
earth that has married fire twice,

that has been shaped and named
for what it comprehends: sherbets, salads,
gravies, deserts.
He lifts a platter fine
as alabaster in cathedral windows:
salvation, the passage of light

through bone. Ah, but
not for you,
the store-man says.
Closeted, in the shipping crates
are pieces no one else will buy:
baboon fops in feathered caps,

chimpanzees in petticoats.
Visitors will later testify,
his home was comfortable,
despite the china apes
peering from every corner.

--- Jean Nordhaus
© 2002, Milkweed Editions

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