Amy Clampitt

15 June 1920 - 10 September 1994 / New Providence, Iowa

Brought From Beyond

The magpie and the bowerbird, its odd
predilection unheard of by Marco Polo
when he came upon, high in Badakhshan,
that blue stone’s
embedded glint of pyrites, like the dance
of light on water, or of angels
(the surface tension of the Absolute)
on nothing,
turned, by processes already ancient,
into pigment: ultramarine, brought from
beyond the water it’s the seeming
color of,
and of the berries, blooms and pebbles
finickingly garnishing an avian
shrine or bower with the rarest hue
in nature,
whatever nature is: the magpie’s eye for
glitter from the clenched fist of
the Mesozoic folding: the creek sands,
the mine shaft,
the siftings and burnishings, the ingot,
the pagan artifact: to propagate
the faith, to find the metal, unearth it,
hoard it up,
to, by the gilding of basilicas,
transmute it: O magpie, O bowerbird,
O Marco Polo and Coronado, where do
these things, these
fabrications, come from—the holy places,
ark and altarpiece, the aureoles,
the seraphim—and underneath it all
the howling?
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