The Drawing Room
I'm old and blind, but I can feel every shoe
press my fibres, each distinct as a fingerprint.
My silk retains a ghost of each sole. I'm dough
beneath the baker's thumb. Politicians, fixers,
the men here rarely walk, but sit suspended
above the floors of limousines and elevators.
One bragged he spends half his life in the air.
Liar. Only one man ever who has walked on me
could swim on the wind as eagles do. In Tehran,
in the reign of the Eighth Caliph. He stood poised
on the woven flower at my centre, chanting spells.
I felt his feet lift. The crowd gasped and clapped.
Coins pattered. A gainful day, said the wizard.
He rolled me up tenderly and carried me away.
The two who tread on me now would never bend
to touch me. I hear a click-clack as the secretary
shuts the drawing room doors, leaving them alone.
Well fuck these ragheads, says one. I'm sick of
Can't they speak American? The other sniggers,
his accent English as a razor. Then I, for one,
still wouldn't understand. The American
Crystal chimes. Wine gurgles. They converse
like scholars of algebra. Quotas, variables,
dollars per barrel; the known unknowns.
Their chair-legs dent my border, cramping
the Farsi that whispers there: My only refuge
is thy threshold. My head knows no roof except
this gateway. The offering of a slave in a holy
If you have any comments on this poem, William Stephenson
would be pleased to hear from you.