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Converse


ISSUE:  Autumn 1997
I’m a woman at a window
talking to a man outside.

    My elbow’s
on the sill. The carved
  acanthus leaves
  behind me wheeze
with dust.

  Some other leaves
crush
  underneath his shoes
  flat on the canvas
(you can’t hear it of course).

The artist has two guises
in one time
and so must I.

Pretend a 16-wheeler
     booms
past just out of frame,
rattling long emptiness
on our moot commune.
Then say I know this man:
(I, she) Where the dust of the day
  meets the dust of the night.
(He) Don’t be decadent.
(I, she) Right.

In the room behind me, in
the real house I stand in,
a voice rises and falls
     in paints,
separates in parts:
     somebody—
it’s that man
pitched back to life,
     I can
tell by his eyes
(which you’ll never see—
     they’re shaded
in, averted, as if autistic,
     and they’re dead.

2

But he’s still playing
rending variations on a tune
after cicadas,
a summer’s ending,
     the summer’s ending,
that summer’s ending.

I take it up, humming,
or have taken it up.

He stands before me. But I
don’t listen. Why
     am I humming?
I’m humming.

And
never having heard
my voice from a distance
I turn my ear
     softly
back into the picture
acritically. Do I like
  what I hear?
Shall I hum? Or sing
  out clear?

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