Equestrian Portrait of an Unknown Noble On our first date, he showed me the painting he kept from his ex on the mantle. “Now it’s a reminder why I left.” A man, dark hair held back by folds of silk, head set in classic three-quarter-profile, to show how his ear drips pearls on the black of his rigid collar, like a planet’s orbit strewn with small moons. Frame for the expression of purposelessness. Some long-dead lesser prince sat upon a sorrel horse. His dog trailing close behind, lolling its dumb tongue in brushstrokes pushing toward impossibly straight palms that thrust us to the vanishing line of the horizon – a frail white border between the sky and ocean. Unsigned: done by a nobody, who likely never knew the setting the scene depicts outside of books and travel guides’ imagined knowledge of lands called colonies, those places one took as lush yet lifeless, just waiting there, like a prize. Caught in the pale of his eyes, I wanted to become the unseen dust kicked up by hooves, the canter oils burnt into canvas. To be what lasts. I needed this man to know my family had left a kingdom of dreams in the not too distant past. “Can I kiss you?” he asked, hands alighting on my neck and chest. Yes. He led me toward the bedroom. A high cry from the street outside ended in my mouth.
So Far Afeard --an erasure from the Prince of Morocco’s complete dialogue in The Merchant of Venice not my complexion, The shadow I am near let us love this aspect I swear I would not change a prince eyes the heart for prey the better weaker beaten by his page And blind with grieving. me blest or cursed'st among men. desire this dull lead, How shall I know the inscriptions What says hazard hazard hazard in hope stoops hue Morocco, even If thou be'st so far afeard What if I stray'd further, saying all the world desires To kiss this breathing desert now princes whose ambitious spirits come, o'er cerecloth sin worse than England A coin that bears the figure of Lies . hell whose empty scroll I'll read have you heard a man sold my Gilded tombs as welcome .
Daniel Barnum lives in Philadelphia, where they work as an editor and educator. Their poems and essays have appeared in The Iowa Review, Guernica, Evergreen Review, Bat City Review, The Offing, Best New Poets and elsewhere. Their first collection manuscript was a finalist for the 2023 National Poetry Series.