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Pastorals in the Atrium

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The tour has only started when
I’m ambushed by that flat-lined verdigris I’d know even
as a stumbling sleepwalker: landschap
with tin river, cleaver of sodden pastures — 

marvelous for painters,
says the docent, was the enormity
of the sky, rarely cloudless, and she’s already
turning to an Italian hillscape when I say wait! this is

my bloodstream, as my finger makes brief
unintended contact with the canvas,
and then my voice an ambulance
I tell her there should be a diagram
to indicate the grazing motion,
how the grinding molars of the Holsteins
make the river go — 

or else, self-portrait
in the glassing-over eye
of a stickleback caged in a jam jar,
left too long in the sun — 

but now the river is across the room because
the docent has ushered me toward an upholstered bench
and is murmuring, sit, sit, I have here from the staff room
a coffee, here you are — 

and I’m making the gesture for
no, those fields I ate and was made of
live in me, uncloseable
parentheses

Source: Poetry (July/August 2013)

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

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Pastorals in the Atrium

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