|Oct/Nov 2004 • Poetry • Special Feature|
The Woman in a Painting by Chagall
Once I put on gravity like a drab
gray dress. My life was fraying
at the hem, trailing threads
from sleeve and collar. Everything
was where I left it. My row of shoes
stared back at me, the painting
on the wall on the same wall,
the books next to the same books.
This was the world to which
I once belonged. But I have stripped
off that world as easily as stepping
out of my dress. I have let the whole
sameness pool at my feet,
like a greasy puddle that reflects
nothing but a distorted smear,
like an open refrigerator in a dark
kitchen. When I step naked
onto the porch, my pulse
is a lone musician, playing
with the devil. I am wearing
robes of light and floating,
hair streaming, to where
a frontier reveals itself
of smokestacks and brickwork,
the secret nests of pigeons.
In the maze of streets, the tops
of taxis and sedans are ablaze
with the reflections of the stars.
I drift above a woman on a fire
escape, her youth dribbling away
like sipped water. The black metal
rungs lead nowhere and to nothing.
I want to tell her that when I wake,
the air will be as tart as peeled
rhubarb, my bed of cloud and
vapor a door blowing open.