Golden Opposite of Grave Beauty

The Buddhist, Yuezun, saw light like gold
Above the blistering sands.  The desert blight
Of Taklamakan gained no stranglehold
On shimmering beauty.  There above cliff height
A thousand golden Buddhas sang and danced
With heavenly maids, celestial in strength
And rhythm.  Yuezun had only chanced
Upon this vision of Enlightened length.
He carved his cave, a little niche above
The desert on the cliff face.  There he set
To painting on the niche’s walls the dove-
Like maidens and the holy ones there yet
____Long centuries on, at least in rock set rooms
____Disciples dug, the opposite of tombs.


Classic Clarity

Who’d want to read the ancient poets, myth
And tales, because of facts?  Aegean blue
And empty temples, ancient gravesites with
A beaten gold mask may be facts and true,
But true enough?  Excited Schliemann sends
The king of Greece a message, “I have seen
The face of Agamemnon.”  Culture lends
Us larger truths.  Greek daylight in between
Ionic columns, whole or broken, tells
Us more than archeologists.  It means
A mindset caught in clarity.  The wells
Of Homer’s words are truer in their scenes
____Of human anguish than the biggest fact.
____They teach us still how we should think and act.


A Filthy Flow

An image of St. Mark’s reflected in
The waves of aqua alta warps the strength
Of loveliness.  Distortions caused by sin
Are called to mind.  Iniquities at length
Are brought to judgment.  Past Venetians stole
That body from a church down by the Nile,
The mummified old saint himself.  A roll
Of pork was placed around him so the vile
Mohammedan was stymied.  Others took
The four bronze horses for the church as loot
From Christians in the East.  Then Venice shook
An older world:  her navy had to shoot
____The Parthenon, that jewel of ancient Greece.
____Deformed, Venezia deserves no peace.


Phillip Whidden is a poet published in America, England, Scotland (and elsewhere) in book form, online, and in journals.  He has also had an article on Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum est” published in The New Edinburgh Review.

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2 Responses

  1. Carole Mertz

    The poetic skill of “Classic Clarity” is remarkable. The lines are there, and the rhymes, but the thoughts don’t stop. This is my clumsy way of saying how I appreciate the skillful line breaks, while remaining true to the sonnet’s form.


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