Red lines pressed upon the large glass—
a clear field where small acts take place.
Her gaze lost in three tissues of cloud,
her waist in stays closing off the air,
she’s mad and will not greet her suitors.
Beyond the street—dust collecting in homes’
new windows, grit loosening from shingles.
She watches children teach birds to kneel.
Her priest instructs: In prayer you whistle
because god grows old and only birds
can make a sound to pierce his tired ear.
Oaken wainscoting, parquet floors, the house
beneath a coat of white paint; white curtains
adorn the flat shoulders of the window seat,
where she sat as a child, her back to the street,
and memorized the rattle’s conversation.
The pad of flesh between her lips dances:
Tell us, Old Town, the color of your buildings,
like sawdust of the ancient windbreak blighted,
shown no pity by the time, taken at the fullness
of its usefulness, and what will bring it back?
Show us trees descending staircases.
Explain the wind. Don’t show us what it blows.
One man will know the whiteness of her body.
It will cost money to fill her with his fluid.
Shirking his vigil duty, a drunk male
slips from his tin coat and runs away—
his scream knocks a cloud out of the sky.
The other eight, glazed by window sweat,
spin in place, fool with spoons, sip
from hot cups the taste of her nipples.
Beneath the floor hard earth holds back
the odor that aspires to ghosthood and hopes
one day to mount the basement steps.
Note: The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass),
by Marcel Duchamp, is installed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.