A Byzantine Mosaic
By Wislawa Szymborska
"O Theotropia, my empress consort."
"O Theodendron, my consort emperor."
"How fair thou art, my hollow-cheeked beloved."
"How fine art thou, blue-lipped spouse."
"Thou art so wondrous frail
beneath thy bell-like gown,
the alarum of which, if but removed,
would waken all my kingdom."
"How excellently mortified thou art,
my lord and master,
to mine own shadow a twinned shade."
"Oh how it pleaseth me
to see my lady's palms,
like unto palm leaves verily,
clasped to her mantle's throat."
"Wherewith, raised heavenward,
I would pray thee mercy for our son,
for he is not such as we, O Theodendron."
"Heaven forfend, O Theotropia.
Pray, what might he be,
begotten and brought forth
in godly dignity?"
"I will confess anon, and thou shalt hear me.
Not a princeling but a sinner have I borne thee.
Pink and shameless as a piglet,
plump and merry, verily,
all chubby wrists and ringlets came he
rolling unto us."
"He is roly-poly?"
"That he is."
"He is voracious?"
"Yea, in truth."
"His skin is milk and roses?"
"As thou sayest."
"What, pray, does our archimandrite say,
a man of most penetrating gnosis?
What say our consecrated eremites,
most holy skeletesses?
How should they strip the fiendish infant
of his swaddling silks?"
still lies within our Savior's power.
Yet thou, on spying
the babe's unsightliness,
shalt not cry out
and rouse the sleeping demon from his rest?"
"I am thy twin in horror.
Lead on, Theotropia."
--Translated by Clare Cavanaugh