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In Phyrygia, Birthplace of Embroidery, by Les Murray

May 25, 1997

When Midas, no less deserving of mercy or better for

being a king dope, had lost all faith in the gods,

either they or their haughty absence sent him metaphor,

an ever-commencing order that can resemble a philosophy

but is more charming faster, like a bird that stars into flight,

like rhyme, its junior, like edgings of the clinker-built sea--

The gold was a symbol, like a need to prize things. I'm smarter

now! he cried. I'm enlightened, as befits a great king!

My silver age will not seize the taramasalata!

But his court worked like stuff he'd learned through nonhuman

ears

and like a gold effigy entitled The Hug his first daughter

stood in the strongroom. Age was like age, tears like tears,

his palace equaled his designs for it, and looked no nobler tiled,

his desire for slave girls was like when he could slake it,

his wife as like an aged queen, and his heir like a child.

From "Subhuman Redneck Poems" by Les Murray. (Farrar Straus & Giroux: 104 pp., $18) Copyright 1997 Reprinted by permission.

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