for Philip Archer
Looking for the perfect blue,
water to swim in, not through,
to fill his sea, his massive bowl
of hand-thick bronze which should hold
more than light (its dozen
compass-pointing bearer oxen
braced in constant expectation)
Solomon scoured every nation
for a colour that was right.
Now and then he would catch sight
of utter blue as he bent down
in some remote spice-scented town
to wash a day’s heat from his face,
but when he moved the dish – no trace.
If water needed autumn’s slant,
the market traders’ daylong chant
a smell of orange, sandalwood
elusive as the blue in blood
then he would reproduce it all –
and this was wisdom. Some would call
it waste, a bad example;
some will never build a temple.
(with thanks to Michael Symmons Roberts)