Elegy for Faustina


Faustina, if that was your name, you are dead,
And your beauty, which sculptors hinted at in stone
And poets expanded their language to render in words,
Is less than a cobweb in a scholar's mind.
And now I (how foolish it sounds) feel for you something –
At all costs let us not call it love.

But there are nights when instead of sleeping I think of you
And lie feverishly awake on knives of roses,
And as it were through a crack in an embankment
Besieging sorrow enters, and ridiculous tears
Exude from my prosaic mud-coloured eyes.
Later I sleep, dreaming perhaps of streets and buses.

Or in the sunlight, walking through the streets,
My tie neatly knotted and my hair smoothed down,
To all appearances like someone in his senses,
There are days when it seems you are continually present
And I think of your cream-coloured body, your carmine lips
And your impossible pride (for that I blame your parents).

But each time, as though through depths of glass, I see you
Surrounded by netted birds and captured lovers,
I remember today's ruin which tourists yawn at
Was the temple where self-consuming candles flared,
That Venus was someone important when you were young
And the fixed stars were fixed in different places.


Fergus Allen, The Brown Parrots of Providencia, Faber and Faber, 1993.