Owen’s alchemy never produced
the fool’s gold of glory on battlefield
but from the mud-burdened trudge
of men moving beyond exhaustion
as they passed a bare, pock-marked,
death-filled, barbed-wire strung world
he wrenched a pure and shocking gold of truth.
Ancient Persian artisans performed
a different kind of alchemy.
Gone are sièges of noise, blood, death,
broken walls and burning cities,
bodies impaled outside the walls,
boastful Kings commissioning bas-reliefs,
walled cities and palaces,
courts, officials, culture and conquest.
What remains is alchemist’s gold,
exquisite bricks glazed
in brown, bone, ochre and aqua,
depictions of warriors,
archers with coiffed beards,
abundant quivers and resplendent garments
standing erect with their straight spears,
now on display in La Musée du Louvre
millennia after he who commissioned them
has faded to forgotten dust
and everything else he gloried in
has long lain covered
by the relentless detritus of time.
Neil Creighton is an Australian poet with a passion for social justice and a love of the natural world. Recent publications include Poetry Quarterly, Silver Birch Press, Praxis Online, South Florida Poetry Journal, and Verse-Virtual, where he is a contributing editor. His poetry blog is windofflowers.blogspot.com.au.
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