A Purchase of Porcelain

Because the king 
decrees that every Jew 
must buy his wedding-right 
in unsold porcelain 
from the royal chinaworks,

here he stands, an amorous Jew, 
gazing at luminous 
suns and moons arrayed 
on doths of velvet-blue, 
earth that has married fire twice,

that has been shaped and named 
for what it comprehends: sherbets, salads, 
gravies, desserts. He lifts a platter fine 
as alabaster in cathedral windows:
salvation, the passage of light

through bone. Ah, but
not for you, the store-man says. 
Closeted, in shipping crates 
are pieces no one else will buy 
baboon fops in feathered caps,

chimpanzees in petticoats. 
Visitors will later testify, 
his home was comfortable, 
despite the china apes 
peering from every corner.

Copyright © 2002 by Jean Nordhaus. From The Porcelain Apes of Moses Mendelssohn published in April 2002 by Milkweed Editions. All rights reserved.