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The Dutch Couple

The wife looks serene
wearing her lead-white mask.
She fakes a pregnancy in doubled green.

Her eyes regard the husband’s palm,
held up as if to silence her
or greet van Eyck, tiny artist

in the mirror’s convex gaze.
Wealth is a clutch
of oranges on the table, an amber rosary

good as blood. No martyrs here—the voices
spoke their last three years before,
when Joan of Arc went up in flames.

Now the pair just prays
their ships will find their way to port,
though we can’t explain

that little dog, what role he plays
in the spidered contract
on the wall, fidelity.

 

 

The Latest Invaders

Under ideal museum light, the waiting room of the king
is reassembled, stone panels lifted from what may no longer be
northern Iraq, the latest invaders burying
ditches left by older empires. True provenance
is Assyria, walled city of Kalhu,
the palace of Ashurnasirpal II, its courtyards once guarded
by human-headed bulls, now bulldozed
or circulating blackly on the market.
On huge slabs of something sedimentary,
the usual themes are carved in bas relief: power,
fertility, sacrifice by men part beast in dress
or flesh. A supposed genie stands behind the king,
puppeteering that universal gesture
of the bowl held out to catch the blood, a sign
to guests. The cuneiform inscription is the same
everywhere: the king is the king
of the world, from Phrygia to Phoenicia
where weapons were washed in the sea,
skins of the unwilling nailed to conquered gates,
tribute like rivers running back to the source.

 

 

Samantha Grenrock grew up in California. She earned her MFA from the University of Florida, and her poetry and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Fugue, Subtropics, Canary and Raritan

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