Claire Crabtree


She’d wanted something stately, once
To frame the world she could see,
What she walked into upon leaving,
The yard, the narrow street.

Architects call them rags.
But she always loved them,
What they called “drapes” when she was young.

As dusk falls these autumn days
The junk maple is turning without ceremony
From sour green to brittle, unlovable brown,
Not to be named like a child’s crayon or a new car
“desert ochre” or “burnt sienna.”
And anyway there are no crayons, now, in this house.

The catalogue comes, a surprise offering one afternoon,
And she belongs for a while to its dream of cottages,
Of chintzes or checks such as her mother liked--
Never mind that the house, with all its rooms
Cries out in these late years for nothing,
No vivid smells and mess of cooking
No wet boots and mittens near the doorway.
All its colors have been chosen, done with.

And whatever else she wanted once—
To plant riotous nasturtiums
That might offend the patient roses—
That too is muted now.

Dark settles in for the night
But in the morning, perhaps she will pull aside
The heavy fabric of safety,
Leave only the sheers of simple muslin
That might let in
What she can find, this winter, of light.

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