He was heroic, fugitive, in love with the machinery
of the sea, and every song he sang was of the sea.
His smile was golden, and a skeleton's grimace
in the earth, for every smile ends up in a grimace.
In his famous hands, a chisel could whistle,
and in hands such as his, an insect might sing.
He whose chances rode the foaming oceans
toward ivory-hued dresses of a new substance.
This, among ashes, a scrawny angel may sing,
from a naked belly, of a delicate emptiness.
When Marco Polo set his compass for gold
and ivory, and his dictionary for Chinese,
when Marco Polo set his chisel for a smooth bow
(to stir the waves to foam) and a stern like ice,
when Marco Polo fixed his stare on silky dresses
and the porcelain look of China, and when he had
sailed his scrawny machine to a fugitive corner
of the globe, and the faces of his crew were ashen,
and even the rigging grimaced like a skeleton, why
then Marco Polo landed, and the caged insects sang!
With a chisel, he found his gold. And ivory, and ashes.
With a borrowed dictionary, he talked and he sang.
With machinery, foam. With machinery, the fugitive.
With machinery, a grimace. With machinery, insects.
With machinery, a skeleton. With scrawny rigging,
a belly of ashes in a fugitive skeleton. With a chisel,
the gold for engines to carry the burnished dresses
to England, though he himself sang mainly of the gold.
He was the Marco Polo of tea and gunpowder,
devoured by the Oriental machinery of the silkworm.
Bell, Marvin. "Marco Polo". The Body Electric: America's Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review. Berg, Stephen, David Bonanno and Arthur Vogelsang, Eds. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. 43-4.