Against a white wall
someone’s hair was a treetop, the body,
the trunk of a tree. It was a time
when everyone said,
behind every great veil is only a human.
If there was an overall ethos, it was
self-forgetful guilt and sorrow was real
enough. I don’t know how
the stage curtain caught fire, she’d said.
And I don’t how reluctance to act
became a machine sucking air
from every sulcus and Grand Canyon
canyon. “Do you like air?”
What could one say to that?
I’ll have to think about it?
The waiter came by with the pepper mill.
The barman with his cocktail shaker.
The unsaid was becoming a picture
of sand, land, and nothing.
It was inevitable, she said, that she would
someday stand behind bars
at a window. She could imagine it:
high above an ice-covered expanse
otherwise covered with tin men
and tin women and rude mechanicals.
The noise, she was sure, would be awful.