And stripped to her wide, white hips. Athena
Strong-arms Mars from the scene. We don’t need him
Here where Peace is jetting the milk
At her hungry kiddie (that’s us). A panther
Rolls at her feet with its paws in the air.
That’s how Rubens imagined her
In some gap, I suppose, of the idiot war,
Generations long, that screwed with his Europe
Of Protestant and Catholic.
But in my dream she was wearing a dress
Of soft, plush velvet the colour of dust
That the rain has settled. Her hair was abundant
And red like fawnskin..
All night I sought her,
Searching through halls with classrooms off them,
Libraries with books stacked high,
Quads enclosed by red brick gothic,
And cafeterias where boys and girls
Drank coffee and conversed as friends.
She had called me sweetheart and held my head
To her chest. I was desperate. I couldn’t find her.
View painting here: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/cgi-bin/WebObjects.dll/CollectionPublisher.woa/wa/work?workNumber=NG46
The poem was written without the painting in view. So it's a leopard not a panther. But I like panthers (Mowgli's Bagheera was a favourite character of mine) and I don't feel like changing it now.