Advent poems 17: Ultramarine, by Michael Symmons Roberts


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.


Michael Symmons Roberts

(with thanks to Michael Symmons Roberts)


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