Painting by Numbers

We begin with the blue sky of reason,
shades one and two, a new brush
held just so, no elephants or birds
or imaginary foes, unless we skip ahead
to seventeen, a sleeping meadow
with rivulets of pain, fourteen, fifteen,
in blobs of yellow-green and pink
beside the stream where none belongs,
my mistake not yours, then a sickly
failed brown where hills once were,
now instead a dead round bear
with purple berries in its hair
or what might be hyacinths in manure,
a timid concept of wild flowers in spring,
ten is tan, eleven clings to twelve,
at the end of the metal case
a smudge of stale birthday cake,
seven, a red barn with a weather vane,
eight, a puddle of corn where there could be
men walking behind wagons full of hay,
or happy girls in Easter bonnets, free at last
from their mothers� oppressive winter quilts,
or an ancient tree beside a poet�s grave,
a young man dead at twenty-three,
alone and brave and noble in his grief,
a prophet wrapped in a clean white sheet
then lowered down, down, down . . .
but let us return to the project at hand,
the smell of paint that looks like sand,
a splendid scene coughed up by man,
his wingless thoughts upon the land,
his dreams confined in proper order,
six for love, nine for hope,
his spirit bricks, his song in mortar.

March 19, 2006

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