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Symbol of the City
My limbs are made of milk
marble stems dangling from golden harnesses
within a bell-jar. My eyes are jewels.
Each morning a maid comes
in a black pinafore and apron
to paint my lips with the blood of swans
and fix roses in my ears,
so I cannot hear their hunger.
I am so precious that I cannot help breaking
a tinkling shard falls off my fingers
with every twitch. They sweep me up with dust-pans
and paint over my cracks with pasty kisses.
When it rains they wrap me in lavender silk
and croon anthems of misty angels.
My wrists are glass.
Sometimes they arrange my limbs
into star-shapes, pinned with silver chains
exquisite and painful.
If I tried to speak
(they tell me),
my voice would shatter windows,
kill birds in flight. I am also told
that my tears fetch 13,000 coins a vial.
They are used to cure blemishes,
remove wrinkles, and put crying children to sleep.
Everyone wants me.
The stone soldiers break their necks if they get too near.
Black butlers feed me acorns and dew-drops
the hearts of frogs pickled in molten platinum.
But I am growing too old to be their doll,
their living emblem. One night I will be removed
with a single snap in silence
and then the dirty ones will worship
a new little girl, perhaps the hundreth
with rosebud lips, jewel eyes, chains of gold.