Blackamoors, Villa La Pietra

I was here before the blackamoors
     were photographed & cataloged,
         when they first ran up to me

& then receded into their poses,
     descendants of archival Hamites
         destined to serve their brothers

& sisters in a red baroque room,
     each silent as an iron doorstop.
         Some peered out of perches

askance, shining lanterns & sconces,
     ready to please, or eager to cast
         a guiding light among centuries

of shadows, a patina of mystery
     lost in Tuscan dusk. At least
         their attire isn’t stitched rags.

If ebony & alabaster could talk,
     Lord, the volumes of gossip
         among  gold-leafed tributes

we would hear as vinegar turns
     back to wine, driftwood to bread.
         They’ve been perfectly arranged,

& almost reveal whose sweat
     glosses their smooth skin
         in these rooms of rehearsal.

I saw one shift slightly & blink,
     or maybe it was a dark hum
         coming from the olive grove,

a feeling brought across the sea.
     They are not claw-footed props
         & furniture for drunken nights

posed to grab a hat or fur coat,
     dressed in skeins of filigree
         & false gems, offering a bowl

of  black grapes to each envoy
     or a guest holding a dagger
         behind his upright back.

More Poems by Yusef Komunyakaa