Giving Him the Bird

The peacocks trailed their languid gilded tails,
an arabesque traced down the leather panels,
golden, and blue to match the Chinese jars
displayed in racks from floor to ceiling.

Unhappy, the patron cries,
“Too many peacocks!”
Whistler takes fire, and sets to work again.

Another pair appears
flaming across the farthest wall,
the birds, fantastic, meet in single combat,
flaunting their glittering eyes.

Satisfied, the artist packs his brushes,
“Now that’s enough peacocks!”

Lari Smith

[on seeing The Peacock Rom in the Smithsonian Museum, done by Whistler for his patron]