That rabbit’s foot is not an oyster;
Your game bag, sir, is hanging on the hook;
Not even a staggerer lacking a candle mistook
Those gleams of slime for pewter, pearls, or feathers;
Tripe is aswirl, and the banding of sweat in the leathers
Where draftsmen strut and rival flayers roister
In desiccated paint is the essence of moisture.
Nor take that sheen for chrism in a cloister;
The swan ungutted dangles from the nail;
Not even a visitor back from the future would fail —
Where masters swagger facture subtle and boisterous —
To finger the edges of parchment or a veil.
Some rabbit hairs have fallen into an oyster;
Into this kingdom of milliner, glazier, farrier,
Palettes, as alembic or allòy, stir
Verre as vair and nacre micaceous and choicer,
For slippers are glass, and ambition is never in error.
Go on, go on, the doorways conjure
Black and white until the tiles refuse
To go around, to lead any longer;
The weary spectator takes off his shoes.
NOTES for Students of English
Chrism – [Pronouced KRIZ-um] – Consecrated oil used in Christian church ceremonies.
Facture – The manner in which a work of art is made.
Alembic – [Pronounced a-LEM-bik] – An apparatus for distilling.
Verre as vair – Verre is glass; vair is squirrel fur. The two words are pronounced alike, rhyming with “fair.” In the fairy tale “Cinderella,” the heroine wears glass slippers (made of verre) which are, by some accounts, a mistaken interpretation of fur slippers (made of vair). Vair was prized for lining and decorating clothing in medieval times. Verre is now considered obsolete as an English word.
Nacre – [Pronounced NAA-ker] – Mother-of-pearl.
Micaceous – [Pronounced my-KAA-shus] – Having thin transparent layers, like the mineral mica.