Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%

'Mirror, Palace' by Lisa Gorton

States of Poetry Victoria - Series Two

'Mirror, Palace' by Lisa Gorton

States of Poetry Victoria - Series Two

– if that indeed can be called composition –
wrote Coleridge –
in which the images rose up before him as things –

‘In the summer of the year – the Author, then in ill health, had
retired to a lonely farmhouse – ’
where, seated in his illeism by a window, the Author passed
into the background of his imagery –
                                           woods, clouds hanging over the sea
                                           in deeps of glass – ‘sole eye of all that world’, or
                                           vanishing point it
                                           floods back through – ‘huge fragments vaulted’ –

‘You must know that it is the greatest palace that ever was’ –
                                                                                                its rooms like clouds
following one another in an order hard to memorise –         ‘all gilt & painted
with figures of men & beasts & birds’ –                               its hall of statues –
                                                                         stopped machines –
leading away and back into that first astonishment –            its green smell
                                                                                   like the cry of a bird

A city at first light, long-shadowed streets –
An open plain of rubbish behind rails –
A sky afloat inside its landscape – clouds in the river,
wind in the dry mouths of the grass –
                                                                                               beating images
                                                                                               from their dark wings
quick shadows brightening –

‘So twice five miles’ – ‘So twice six miles of fertile ground
with Walls and Towers were compass’d round’ – ‘were girdled’ –

‘In Xamdu did Cublai Can’
ride out on his white horse
with a jaguar on its pommel, loosed
to hunt the animals stored
in the wide cage of his pleasure –
‘a stag, or goat, or fallow deer’ –
carcasses for his gyrfalcons in their mews –

A is for Alph – sacred river of
converging perspectival lines –
Momently it rises – momently
sinks back – into that lifeless ocean
the letter’s two struts stand
afloat on, raising its tower again –
– A woman crying in her wilderness
– A woman singing
– A ‘palace so devised that it can be taken down
and put up again
wheresoever the Emperor may command – ’

From far off, the Emperor hears his dead
in panoply of ice
speaking war through their long smiles –

‘And now once more / The pool becomes a mirror’ –

His poem is a mirror made of metal –
its one face the engraving of a landscape –
the other, polished to brightness,
keeps taking things into itself
and letting them go – A palace of images
that the Emperor walks about in –
its dome of air, its caves of ice,
in the flashing eye of a mirror, his floating hair –

‘The author continued about three hours in his chair’ –

The Author walked in
through the iron gate of its palace – Only
his shadow moved among the shadows –
He was in its hall of statues
when a sound of rain
opened like a door into that room where he slept as a child
and all night it rained, all night dark
poured onto its glass like rain –

‘Irrecoverable – ’ meaning, it couldn’t be finished –
Circumstantial as a preface, things rising up
out of their images before him –
                                            or ‘sunless sea’ –
Midway, the shadow floats – long-dead Emperor
with a voice of water, looking out
from mirrors with a face of false calm –

The Author watched his Person of Business
walking in from Porlock
among deep fields of grass – His hat like a stone
skimmed the tips of the seedheads, late-
summer pale, scattering
from the wind like light on water – and
elderflowers, poppies, speedwell, hyacinths –
                                     ‘I have annexed a fragment – ’

Lisa Gorton

From the New Issue

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.