Cliff Fell

Chagall in Vitebsk

He believed in the dust that was beaten
from rugs, how it became
the stars of the Milky Way,
and he would share the last hours of animals
with his uncle the butcher
who played to them on the violin.

And he knew the tyranny of perspective
will kill us all
and that even the chairs get bored
in Vitebsk,
from sitting alone
in the courtyard all day.

So, stay here with your herrings, he said—
my concern is with movement,
with the paradise lost of childhood
and absolution of Art and Love—
though when Bella died
the world went dark before my eyes.

But we all need to copy what we already possess
and so he remade on the canvas
the lack of alcohol,
the reality that lies beyond
the shadows at play on the wall,
the images and forms that we like to say

are simply those who are passing us by.
So where are you going,
Mr. Oxcart Man, with your creaking wheels
on the old dirt road?
Will you make it through
to the seasons of another year?—

And play out its days on your violin
as you fly
to the farm where a goat and horse still graze
and the poet reclines
beneath a lilac sky
waiting for the evening stars to appear.

Author’s Note


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