1. Peony silks, in wax-light: that petal-sheen, gold or apricot or rose candled into- what to call it, lumina, aurora, aureole? About gowns, the Old Masters, were they ever wrong? This penitent Magdalen's wrapped in a yellow so voluptuous she seems to wear all she's renounced; this boy angel isn't touching the ground, but his billow of yardage refers not to heaven but to pleasure's textures, the tactile sheers and voiles and tulles which weren't made to adorn the soul. Eternity's plainly nude; the naked here and now longs for a little dressing up. And though they seem to prefer the invisible, every saint in the gallery flaunts an improbable tumble of drapery, a nearly audible liquidity (bright brass embroidery, satin's violin-sheen) raveled around the body's plain prose; exquisite (dis?)guises; poetry, music, clothes. 2. Nothing needs to be this lavish. Even the words I'd choose for these leaves; intricate, stippled, foxed, tortoise, mottled, splotched -jeweled adjectives for a forest by Fabergé, all cloisonné and enamel, a yellow grove golden in its gleaming couture, brass buttons tumbling to the floor. Who's it for? Who's the audience for this bravura? Maybe the world's just trompe l'oeil, appearances laid out to dazzle the eye; who could see through this to any world beyond forms? Maybe the costume's the whole show, all of revelation we'll be offered. So? Show me what's not a world of appearances. Autumn's a grand old drag in torched and tumbled chiffon striking her weary pose. Talk about your mellow fruitfulness! Smoky alto, thou hast thy music, too; unforgettable, those October damasks, the dazzling kimono worn, dishabille, uncountable curtain calls in these footlights' dusky, flattering rose. The world's made fabulous by fabulous clothes.
From Atlantis by Mark Doty, published by Harper Perennial. Copyright © 1995 by Mark Doty. Used by permission of the author.