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Forget the romance purveyed of windowseats,
knocked as they be by the winds
that skim drowned lawns of all
but fleets of scavenger gulls.

Summer, a dandy assures us
from his portrait next to horse and hounds,
grooms the hay just out of sight.
Marquis, field marshal, bishop,

mistress of the king, two indolent wits—
for his guests the catch,
rough justice in the scales of the fish that,
baked whole and portaged from kitchen depths

up floors, down corridors, reaches the table
lifelike as a still-wet still life and as cold.
Unsnagged from its dumb throat,
the rictus of a laugh lasts

to toast the next course, the hunt’s game,
those who afford such spreads
come to afford the attendant gout as well.
And to order footstooled gout chairs fashioned,

carcasses of native oak veneered
with dusky woods of empire,
shellac made of parasite secretions
shipped from India to finish them.

And, damp evenings, to order the chair be drawn
to the fireplace, Crusoe laid ready,
fire built to a lush and private isle
balmy, as the footman Friday knows,

as long as there’s wealth to be burnt
and someone, through much practice
aster of the flint striker
but knowing his station, to stoop

and, in his best time of two minutes,
manage to light it for you.

—Debora Greger