Scarce a cry had split those cherubic lips
when l’enfant mesurée was borne away
to be ensconced in that brazen cradle,
cast so as to crimp those budding contours.
A calendar expired in the waiting
for the unwitting ornament’s warm skin
to chafe at last against the chill metal
of a once cozy shell, now unyielding.
The sudden sharp complaint of contused flesh
spurs the compressed youth to action, violent
and futile; each tiny stifled movement
brings great pain, and minor dislocation.
Bone upon splintering bone provokes moans
of lament for a near forgotten shore
just beyond the damming reef that breaks waves
of wept marrow in ever ebbing tides.
Even the spectral breath is soon impinged,
bellows struggling to pump beneath the strain
of a sundered cartilaginous cage
filled with screams too weak to seize their freedom.
And as the pupating mass gasps within,
the foot-tapping masses gather without,
casting restless glances at the cocoon
that remains a silent opacity.
The attendant architects urge patience
on the bored, dollar-glutted patrons
who have shed some fraction of that excess
solely to see this supposed marvel.
Past an interval of further delay,
the authors of the urn announce, “It’s done,”
and proceed to strip away the rivets
that have so long barred the contents from sight.
It is an aberration, pale and gray
and twisted as an old arthritic fist,
dense with ingrown bone and inchoate fat,
blind and wriggling as a landed cavefish.
Men retch, women scream, while their children weep
at this monstrous sibling, begging for air
in thick grunts of mangled incoherence,
to the clear chagrin of its artisans.
Funds are returned without complaint, of course,
down to the very denomination
given by each disgruntled customer
to each failed tailor of immanent flesh.
As for the token of growth so curtailed,
hope consign it to restful ash and ash,
rather than life, up there on some dark shelf:
an object lesson in beauty constrained.