Original Text: 
© Mark Doty, Sweet Machine: Poems (HarperFlamingo, 1998): 3-7. PS 3554 O798S9 1998 Robarts Library
2at century's end,
3compounded metallic lusters
4in reference
5to natural sheens (dragonfly
6and beetle wings,
7marbled light on kerosene)
8and invented names
9as coolly lustrous
10as their products'
14respectively, the glaze
15of feathers,
16that sun-shot fog
17of which halos
18are composed,
19and -- what?
20What to make of Favrile,
21Tiffany's term
22for his coppery-rose
23flushed with gold
24like the alchemized
25atmosphere of sunbeams
26in a Flemish room?
28fake Japanese,
29his lamps illumine
30chiefly themselves,
31copying waterlilies'
32bronzy stems,
33wisteria or trout scales;
34surfaces burnished
35like a tidal stream
36on which an excitation
37of minnows boils
38and blooms, artifice
39made to show us
40the lavish wardrobe
41of things, the world's
42glaze of appearances
43worked into the thin
44and gleaming stuff
45of craft. A story:
46at the puppet opera
47-- where one man animated
48the entire cast
49while another ghosted
50the voices, basso
52at the world of tiny gestures,
53forgot, he said,
54these were puppets,
55forgot these wire
56and plaster fabrications
57were actors at all,
58since their pretense
59allowed the passions
60released to be --
61well, operatic.
62It's too much,
63to be expected to believe;
64art's a mercuried sheen
65in which we may discern,
66because it is surface,
67clear or vague
68suggestions of our depths.
69Don't we need a word
70for the luster
71of things which insist
72on the fact they're made,
73which announce
74their maker's bravura?
75Favrile, I'd propose,
76for the perfect lamp,
77too dim and strange
78to help us read.
79For the kimono woven,
80dipped in dyes, unraveled
81and loomed again
82that the pattern might take on
83a subtler shading.
84For the sonnet's
88For everything
89which begins in limit
90(where else might our work
91begin?) and ends in grace,
92or at least extravagance.
93For the silk sleeves
94of the puppet queen,
95held at a ravishing angle
96over her puppet lover slain,
97for her lush vowels
98mouthed by the plain man
99hunched behind the stage.
Copyright 1998 Mark Doty, Sweet Machine: Poems HarperFlamingo


11] Quetzal: Mark Doty writes that this is "a variety of art glass intended to resemble the iridescence of those fabled feathers" of the Central American bird known as quetzaltototl (e-mail to the Editor, Dec. 14, 2000). Back to Line
12] Aurene: not in the Oxford English Dictionary, but a kind of iridescent gold, blue, green, or red glass crafted by Frederick Carder, New York, ca. 1904.
Favrile: a trade name for a brightly coloured, iridescent, and enamelled glass, devised in 1894 by L. C. Tiffany (1848-1933) from fabrile, `relating to a craftsman or a craft.' Back to Line
27] Faux: imitation. Back to Line
51] coloratura: cadenzas, runs, trills, and other ornamented passages in song. Back to Line
85] sateen: a compounding of `satin' and `velveteen.' Back to Line
86] bel canto: `fine song' (Italian), a style of singing that full in tone and richly expressive. Back to Line
87] Fabergé: intricately ornamented, from Peter Carl Fabergé (1846-1920), a Russian jeweller. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Western Humanities Review 50.4 (Winter 1997): 310-12. AP 2 W426 Robarts Library; Island Sheaf (New York: Dim Gray Bar Press, 1998).
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.
Special Copyright: 

This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Mark Doty.