It’s the setting for a classical painting
or drama, but not one where the king,
beneath his purple canopy,
dies in the last act, or enters
in triumph earlier,
or at all. There’s a wastefulness
about these sun-drenched plazas, towering
rooms enclosed or open, marbled
vistas, which need not be
a sign of confidence or vanity.
The people, who don’t appear,
must live in narrow chambers
and customs, obsessively neat
and punctilious; or so you sense.
They have no concept of the sword,
only of shields. And if you ask
Where are the looming, polychrome,
expected gods, the emptiness
of certain spaces is
in its way numinous and answers fully.
So that you could replace
columns with rebar, stone
with glass and lose nothing.
How much might be accomplished
by a species mostly ruled
by fear, afraid primarily
of themselves, and whose fear was
decoupled neurologically from rage?
By Leila Farjami