WATERCOLORS AT NEW YEAR’S END
Your pines were, rightly, secondary,
a wash of sun and sky, branches
thick as velvet pillows, cones
clumsy as the questions I would ask:
How do clouds darken to nightmare?
Are dreams smoke-blue? What color love?
Yours were non-answers I translated,
broken strokes, a trembling brush
you barely held, subjects muddled
as your verbs – the cramped thumbs
of apple boughs, a flight of birds
rising, darkness rising its slow wings —
your eyes two iceberg tips
sharp as broken window glass,
bloodshot as your hands, blind
as the ice-crystal wind
blowing in from cedars
lapped by heavy mist.
What depths you knew
kept your hulk intact,
palms and fingers bandaged,
then scarred but free again
to try your bidding.
Like your room, what was inside
is what was lost: gone
the woman bundled in bed
tossed like a passenger at sea,
the bottles empty of their pills,
water cold in a cold cup,
the body at last empty and at rest.
Am I to answer now? You are beyond
my every skill. Your city under snow
is salt and grit, your days gray:
gray overcast, gray drizzle,
yourself gray and pencil-drawn,
unseen, in any case
but for what pigments hide you:
a mask shut like yellow night,
blue stars weightless on your lids,
wreaths of Christmas green and red.
What color love? It is a shadow,
a stain that spreads like failure or remorse.
Never again the child’s easy palette.
Never the grace of a blank page.