One day even glittery vagabond princes
fade into sepia. Images stay: elegant
long-necked canvas men keep burning.
Charcoal women, naked except
for their stockings, remain as vital
as ever. And stories stay warm in our mouths:
Schiele’s drawing ignited by an outraged judge
over a candle flame; Modigliani
born under a pile of silver and damask
because by law, no bailiff could raid
the bed of a laboring mother.
But human bodies are lost, killed
by pandemic or tuberculosis
with a side of opium. An uplifted
chin, an intelligent eye. See how the faces
of geniuses haze together, just
like the faces of ordinary people. It’s as if
our great loves can persist but all the little
lights, the ash-flecks and shining teaspoons,
vanish in some general incandescence.