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After "Dabney's Barbershop"
by Judith Valente

To love you, I must love

   the way Matisse

loved the egg:

so much he sketched one

   every morning, years on end,

the charcoal pencil

tensed in his hand

   to trace the curve just right,

his eye lost in a dozen shades of white.

I must love too

   this rust-dripped

elevated track, the dragon drone

of the silver train as it floats past

   on its steel throne,

leaving a taste of rust and slate.

And I must love the hand-warmth

   of the coffee cup,

veins of painted ivy skulking up

its yellow sides. Love equally

   the quasars heating up

our distant galaxies:

they roll through space

   like a child's slinky,

sing their billion-year-old melodies.

And I must love

   the teetering barbershop

stuck in the middle of the block,

in this sad white painting.

   The shop slanted on its side

like a version of the truth,

blonde filaments of youth

   powdering its checkered floor

like your dark homuncular shavings,

mornings in the white basin.

   To love you

I must love a world of venial sins,

and Sunday quiet, a blue room

   with white borders,

claw-foot tub, and you inside it.


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