Inspired by “Muse Inquietanti,” “Poet and Artist,” and “L’Incertitude du poète” by Giorgio de Chirico
This is not the Vatican.
This is not the Pope watching long,
black shadows push firmly their parallel lines
into the hardwood, squeezing until black.
Until orange juices spill and oversaturate the world.
This weeping woman,
seated atop a blue work bench is not, in fact, sad.
Her shoulders shrug and stretch with slow, rounding turns
as her arm twists and scrunches on her head
with a gaping mouth.
This weeping woman
curled over, wafting in the damp orange wood,
has placed her paper-thin shovel beside her plump knee
waiting for night, peering behind her back,
to crest the soft mounds of her shoulder
and climb into the sky so that
this day will end and the shadows
will creep back into their columns and recollect their bodies
un-squeezing the damp planks, their orange sponges
sucking in the excess left unshoveled at day.
And the not-Pope will call out into the darkness
towards the smokestacks of the not-Vatican and say:
“Listen over, through the window
where the night sweeps the yellow out of the sky.
Listen, cloaked man, the day has ended
smack the table and crack the peanut in your hand
“And, naked man, pull the lever stitched into the cube
to activate the array of wooden rulers caught up in a naught,
bolted into the floor, crunching and cracking, clicking like a cricket.
Pull the lever down enough that the constellation of rulers
goes still, silent (save the eek of snapping wood),
and stretched until bending.
“Cloaked man, await the flutter of a peanut
jumping through the web of rulers, tapping its way to your hand.
Catch it under your palm. Do not crush it.
Funnel the other, crushed peanut into the lips
of the woman’s head on the floor.
“Naked man, imagine the peanut under the palm.
Is it not crushed? What does it smell like?
Taste it in your mouth, let it stab a splinter in your tongue.
Do you taste blood? Good.
“Listen, cloaked man, take the peanut from beneath your palm.
Do not look at the naked man.
What color is his skin? Is it rough or soft?
Is his face questioning like yours?
Is his skin orange? Good.
“Naked man, look at the peanut.
Is the peanut orange? Good.”
“Both of you, look through the other window:
The one with the arches filled with black
bursting out, spilling into shadows
But the night is closing in, dusk is sopping up the shadows.
“The train will chug across the rest of the horizon
zipping up the daylight, trapping in the night.
The woman digests the crushed peanut in her grumbling
and folding stomach. An owl waits for her to finish.
“The magnitude of the bananas shocks the night,
the yellow and green pile, ripe with life and taste.
The bananas slice shadows like the crescent shaped blade of a knife.
“Let the peanut take shape in your mouth, float
in the blood on your tongue. The sweet shadows
cast by the bananas fold over the insides of your cheeks
diluting your mouth with orange.
Cloak yourself in this. Become naked in it.”
Night pours into the not-Vatican glazing
the weeping woman and the not-Pope in shining silence.
Orange smoke begins to roll from the towers, the plumes
like a million peanuts, jumbling in the sky.
And just before the sweeping silhouette
of the weeping woman’s shoulder fades into the night,
through her gaping nose flows the fresh, sweet scent
of the bananas.
Chevy Chase, MD
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I dream for a world where people from all backgrounds have the freedom to tell their stories to others without fear. Creativity is an act of vulnerability. A world open to hearing new — and sometimes strange — voices is one that will be more colorful and rich with soul and history.
Both of my parents. They work so hard so I can enjoy the privileges that I have. They’re both lawyers, so they don’t spend much time on creative writing, but they have still shown me how vital it is to the human experience to be able to harness the power of language.