Sorting by

Skip to main content

The parlor lies beneath its settled dust.
The grand oak table in the dining room,
Long stripped of plate, cuillere, and candelabra,

Reflects the twilight like a polished tombstone.
And now, he stirs from stillness to ascend
Beyond the creak of stairs into the attic.

And though he knows there is no place to climb,
No stair to free him from the angered absence
Below, he breathes, and climbs it nonetheless.

The night is hot. A fan chirrs in the window.
The little tassel on the light goes plink
And casts a swinging shadow from the bulb.

Beyond, the paintings he’s collected make
A crooked brickwork, leaning from their wires
With stripped-down frames, those pinks and greens and yellows.

One big hand sets the phonograph’s fine needle
Into the groove and flips the broken switch,
Until some secret part at last turns on.

This is the secret part, the place of breathing,
Where all the empty beauties are enjoyed,
Where all the obtuse dead have reached and failed.

O, friend of such enameled solitude,
Who knows the joy of sound and colored glass,
Listen! His breath grows slower with the music.

Photo by Jace & Afsoon on Unsplash

James Matthew Wilson

James Matthew Wilson has published ten books, including, most recently, The Strangeness of the Good (Angelico, 2020). He directs the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Saint Thomas, is Poet-in-Residence of the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Liturgy, and serves as poetry editor of Modern Age magazine and as editor of Colosseum Books.