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All that remains is a lamp with green
at its steepled crown,

a room in which she did not belong
and knew it.

           Here, then, is the shame.
The orange1 did not belong on the plate,
hunger in absentia

At that time, the clock spoke its remain here,
too heavy for the air around it
to hold. First, take a breath:

At age X, still, she cannot swim,2 
the world having no shape without eyes,
nothing easily defined.

On film, that blur is either a bare shoulder
or part of a lamp.

The pure window / from the inside / from the inside / throw it open.3 
I do not want to be photographed like that:
The first roll I destroyed.

Before 1195, the field of choice
was lacquer4: ornamental boxes, small stones.

Treasure had nothing to do
with the face, eyebrows redrawn—the curve of a fan,
teeth filled in with black.5 

Physiognomists decided: an important boy,
meant for ruled things.
Or did they mean, Shining but not necessarily real?

Imprints on the lawn
could have been anyone, love,

Or no such crime of entry
and depart.7 

In a second picture, yellow skies
prefigure gilding. Indeed,

1000 years later, ornaments
still retain their gold.
 Copper inlay
on the shoulder suggests, of course,

carnations. Birds
freeze in the sky. We pluck them,

small berries, not knowing
how to remember the scene.

1. Blood, always blood
The color blue like blue
Accustomed to thirst, the orange’s incessant explosion
                      (Ayane Kawata, from Sora no Jikan, 1969)
At three years of age, the infant saw an orange arranged on a blue-and- white dish. At that moment, he knew both the sun and his own shining mortality.

2. She does not need them, the mother said, generally meaning the eyes, ears & most of touch and taste.

3. (A. Kawata)

4. The slight rounding of the lid gives this flat box a graceful shape that is enhanced by the dense scroll work in “polished lacquer” in which kalavinka spirits hover among plant scrolls.

5. Because (the boy’s) teeth were slightly decayed, his mouth was charmingly dark when he smiled. One almost wished he had been born a girl—Genji Monogatari

6. Somehow news of the sage’s remarks leaked out, though the emperor himself was careful to say nothing.

7. One day, a different woman went to sleep at noon and awoke to find the figure of a man in her room. Usually quiet, she leapt out of bed and yelled at him, “Get out of my house!” He paused by the dresser, bowed, and left the apartment. The woman had not looked directly at his face. When questioned later, she said, “In case I knew him, I didn’t want the incident to come between us when we met.” He had come in through the kitchen window, she said.

Malinda Markham is the 2011 winner of the Green Rose Prize in Poetry. Her work has appeared in Conjunctions’ online magazinethe Paris Review, American Letters & Commentary, and VOLT. Her first book of poetry, Ninety-five Nights of Listening (Mariner), won the 2002 Bakeless Prize.