blackening air, the avenues lead only into night
—John Hollander, Power Failures
A porcelain bowl on the slate table,
white on black,
and the pictures hanging side by side,
Chinese horses, a Japanese garden
brushed in ink, held in dark frame—
colors were absent. I smeared
scarlet on the plastered wall to remember
days of desire,
a semblance of drama against monotony.
Had I hung my portrait,
it would have a scowl
against time looting seasons,
the frown on the ceiling that stares down
at an impoverished face.
I spy words in their swaying
between truth and pretense, a mute alphabet
to tints and objects.
I keep circling
the dragon of fear stirring
from black and white, from a red wall
and the million pages of books—
of crowds and of aloneness,
of life and life waning.