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At Odds

by David Matthews

At odds with the world
and herself, discordant,
sedated by anonymity,
lured by arson's prospect
and forbidden thrill,
she drains a pint, out of tune,
more near Catherine de Medici
than to Joan or Garbo,
nowhere near any safe haven.
The bartender's luminous smile,
swallowed whole,
uncorks waves of foolish fantasy.
She contemplates putting the torch
to her own wheat-field hair,
maybe catch his eye,
liven things up, respite,
when the slings and arrows
of outraged fortune
prove too much to dodge.
She waits for Godot
to stuff the jukebox with coins,
play something to pacify
her troubled mind,
lest she turn
to that lonesome railroad iron
to rest her head and wait
for the evening train
to settle the affair.
She waits for rain
to wash away the lovers
who pass through memory,
a parade of infidelity
in step with vain jealousy
and her own taste for betrayal.
The colors of her palette mixed to black
lay down a depth of hunger
that remains beyond fathom
in the measured finitude of these hours,
nor in the full complement
of life's relentless passing by.
The golden shadow
of an hourglass dawn
slants across Heaven's door
while dragon boats and cherry blooms
float trembling through her thoughts.
She dreams a mountain
that almost touches the heavens,
then opens her eyes to a place
where no one knows her name.
Her hungry gaze locks in on
a river running darkly
to a deep harbor.
She steps away from things
and lets her hair down.
It flows down her back
like coffee to a cup
and hangs like mist
colors the delicate air,
a stepping away from things,
until night she turns once more
to sacral studio
to put brush to canvas again,
blister the wounding void with vision,
take on that deathless emptiness
in silence, in dread,
her resolute returning to it.


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