Saturday, December 13, 2014

Richard Schiffman: "Gray Scale"

Nobody loves such days,
everything smudged in powdered lead,
the whites all off, the blacks dull
like the bad side of a mirror.
Yet in a world of shadows
what matters are not the highlights
but the shades of grays.
This river, for instance, a sooty snake
mirroring an oatmeal sky.
But watch it eddy and swirl,
and gradually the lead turns silver, begins
to blaze from within, as if begging the sun
to bust out of its straight-jacket.
And shine. Which the sun very nearly does.
But in the end, it can’t be bothered.
It says, Sparkle yourself.
And eventually we do. Van Gogh returns
to the sea-light of his youth.
Sews the ear back on.
Trades his magentas and cyans
for a # 2 pencil. It is all in the shading,
he realizes. The pursuit of raging hues
was madness. God, no longer
in the rainbowed flame,
but in this wan, uncertain earthlight:
this almost-shimmer on a river.
Whatever plain brown paper wrapper
the day comes in.

"Gray Scale" by Richard Schiffman. Text as published in Grey Sparrow Journal (Summer 2014). Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: "The river in black and white," photograph taken on May 1, 2010, by R Casey.

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