It is the burning room. The bright yellow room
seen by Chagall when a child, a desolation
that is, at the same time, rich with its own past;
a room of hush and wail and silent reading;
of newspapers or holy texts or sheets of accounts.
It is a room of which there are few proper accounts
and he is obliged to sit there silently reading
whatever text is presented to him by the past.
I don’t think he is thinking of desolation.
To him a room is simply a room, and this is the room.
Still the yellow room that is only
in the cold wind, hanging
for a moment, then gone, like a
that has stopped speaking, a room
in a questionable yellow, a light
that is a lantern constructed out of history,
a peculiarly yellow history that breathes
its own yellow dust
dust I cannot quite collect or recollect
or even conjure by a simple naming. Rain
falls outside in the square, soft
And dust, Right here. Right now.
His dust is still sitting in its box, not yet scattered
in any place that might have been dear to him,
since we don’t know what were the places he dreamt
or hoped for, if indeed there was such a place,
some street or field or room, a house or a bed.
Might it have been the sea, settled on the sea bed
or drifting off on the tide to a generous place
on a distant island, an island I too have dreamt
His dust lies heavy on me as if I should carry him
to some coherence though I myself am scattered.
No point in arguing with the dead, still less so
with oneself. All one makes of that is poetry,
which is no consolation. We are at a standstill
he and I. I see him playing cards
in a garden with his friends, a cigarette
in his mouth. He offers me a cigarette.
He shows me a handful of foreign cards.
He explains the rules. He sit so very still
it is as though he were composing poetry
in his head but he will not say so.