In the Fabergé museum in Baden-Baden
My two-year-old daughter sits in the corner
Playing Toca Doctor on her mother’s iPhone 4.
Slowly circling glass cabinets, I try
To impress our eager guide
By recognizing some George or other in
The moustache of the last Tsar, Nicholas. But riches
Wink from transparent shelves: an eagle-shaped brooch,
A gilded cigarette case;
But most magnetic of all, of course, the eggs:
Empress Minnie’s austere Karelian Birch birthing
A miniature mechanical elephant
Studded with rose-cut diamonds;
The Rothschild Egg – all nine million pounds’ worth:
A stopped clock, pink and gold, with a diamond-set cockerel;
And Empress Alexandra’s Constellation:
Nephrite and a blue glass sphere
She never got to touch. I summon Sybil,
My child, who is by now attempting Angry Birds Space.
“Look at the pretty eggs,” I encourage her.
She doesn’t seem to see. She
Preferred the hare-shaped decanter and glasses –
Silver. Our guide did stress the utilitarian
Element to this embarrassment of stuff.
Diamonds to tell the time by.
Sitting soft, watching the world through a wine-glass
A quarter full of Pinot Noir, it’s easy to hold
Forth on man’s inhumanity to man. But
In Baden-Baden I found
My actions deaf to my words. Were there any
Kind of longevity in those ideals I toy with,
I’d have smuggled in a hammer – maybe a
Sickle too, just for a laugh –
And I’d be beating, breaking, smashing; shaping
History anew: wreaking smithereens. Not coaxing
Vocal approval from my offspring for all
The pretty shapes and colours.
Rhymes for all times