Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chrome Yellow

You, painter, wearing your rag knuckles
in the yellow downpour as you slap thickly
at the bistro and hear who knows what
on the cobblestone alley and the street leading
north and south. You know you are empty,
and the pallid walls that are perfect in their tones
of gray and make up the rooms where you sleep
and you eat are rendered imperfectly yellow and useless
and hold up nothing at all. What is it you feel
when the fishmonger pushing his cart is suddenly
set up behind you and leaning his eyes on
your shoulder and you are unwashed and unfed and sniff
in those miserable walls the blisters, the veins, the friends,
the yellow inside of you pouring all over the street?
It is summer and winter and the sky is so dense
you can bang a nail into it and hang up your coat.
You settle yourself on the red blanket. The green
shutters that are behind and in front of you open
and close, but you are unaware of the seasons
for time measures nothing for you.
You decorate with your flowers, and the cane
chairs that have slipped into corners and wait
patiently for whoever will have them are yellow,
and so are the pillows and the sheet, but the walls are a thin
blue because you and your pigment are dwindling.
There is an ear and a candle, and the train chugging
over the trestle is an element and not a way
out. But you are not looking for ways out.
You are planted in a yellow puddle and the effusion
of colors is drowning and feeding you, but you
have no intention of budging because you are
incapable of doing ordinary things. The house
must be assembled and filled, and it is you only who know
the inside and the outside and it is for you to tell me
about it and it is for me to listen, because
I know you are suffering and that under the cobalt
sky, to the north of the streetlamp and above
the brothel, you are slowly dying of yellow.

(This poem appeared in The Literary Review.)