A Singular Metamorphosis


We all were watching the quiz on television
Last night, combining leisure with pleasure,
When Uncle Henry's antique escritoire,
Where he used to sit making up his accounts,
Began to shudder and rock like a crying woman,
Then burst into flower from every cubbyhole
(For all the world like a seventy-four of the line
Riding the swell and firing off Finisterre).
Extraordinary sight! Its delicate legs
Thickened and gnarled, writhing, they started to root
The feet deep in a carpet of briony
Star-pointed with primula. Small animals
Began to mooch around and climb up this
Reversionary desk and dustable heirloom
Left in the gloomiest corner of the room
Far from the television.
                                    I alone,
To my belief, remarked the remarkable
Transaction above remarked. The flowers were blue,
The fiery blue of iris, and there was
A smell of warm, wet grass and new horse-dung.

The screen, meanwhile, communicated to us
With some fidelity the image and voice
Of Narcisse, the cultivated policewoman
From San Francisco, who had already
Taken the sponsors for ten thousand greens
By knowing her Montales from Capegues,
Cordilleras from Gonorrheas, in
The Plays of Shapesmoke Swoon of Avalon,
A tygers hart in a players painted hide
If ever you saw one.
                                When all this was over,
And everyone went home to bed, not one
Mentioned the escritoire, which was by now
Bowed over with the weight of fruit and nuts
And birds and squirrels in its upper limbs.
Stars tangled with its mistletoe and ivy.


Howard Nemerov, The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov, University of Chicago Press, 1977.