Peter Philips’ Part Book Talks to Brueghel

by Simon Jenner

England blisters from me. I’ll grow a new skin
in Antwerp where the declivities of the word
recusant press no un-natured furrows on my back
nor delve a harrow through my conscience.

What shall I say, Brueghel? My vellum flays cream
open to the touch of your eyeballs and lead
jacketed in its precipitate white smear.
Your Sense of Hearing, seven desks, an old thing

my First Book of Madrigals pricked on lead
lozenges, so legible in north morning light
flat off the channel. I’ve put out so much since,
all Europe listens; now you, and they to you

through what sloped ear you’ve fixed me in.
I’ve this dream that these squirrel notes
will be my all, captive to varnish
yellowing time to bitumen’s oblivion.

I was never tortured till now – by a friend
blond in his good wishes like an angel
of those instrumented orders they once
applied on walls, tempera opalescent with light

singing their clear grey levels of ascension.
But I’m here whited by you, as if my skin’s
exposed to my own black arrows of invention
choral to just one minute of me, again

again, voicing each part as if a door
opened, shut. Is this my touch of gratitude
to your wrist, my sweet-toned inquisition?
Forgive my skin talking. I’m stretched and sized

and think on the death that tautens me. I paper
Europe with my cry as if then the chanson uncurled
to God absolves these vanities with crisp silence
and my stands chorus the pitch of love forever.