Artist “ Anon”
1.Embroiderer of the Emperor’s Robes
Summoned as a boy, he stays alive
in the Forbidden City by weaving
memories with the silk of his mother’s hair,
green thread of mountain mornings.
I squint before its dazzle,
searching for the old, conscripted tailor.
He hides, a bent shadow
on the retinue’s fringe, spent eyes
narrowing to the eye of his needle.
2.Etcher of Scrimshaw
a fallen-down drunk lassoed
by deck rope, tossed by anger’s maelstrom.
But when sunk in loneliness,
he conjures wife and son
on bone: amazing,
how the homesick heart
can guide the improbable hand
to this precise and spidery black art.
He travels the Roman Empire by cart
and foot, grinding purple seashells,
gathering soil, soot, and chalk, crushing
colored stones. The names of senators,
centurions and prosperous olive merchants
are lost in time. Yet century after century
his subjects gaze with all-knowing eyes,
familiar to each generation. The faceless
painter? Returned to his element,
he can be found everywhere:
in shell, soil, soot, chalk, stone.
4. Immigrant Seamstress
And what of the girl whom steerage
nearly tore to tatters?
All the doors are locked and exits blocked
in her new country of sorrow.
Even in waning light, she bends
to stitch ten thousand jet beads
onto this black opera cloak
for a patron of the arts
whose name we still revere.
Unfurled on the scarred workbench,
it reminds her of the starlings—
the way hundreds, flashing iridescence,
would sweep down, then settle,
on the rocky fields back home.
For Blanche, Who Named the Colors
Praise Blanche, who lived alone
in a ground floor flat
but dwelled in kingdoms
of Venetian Marble and Antique Pearl.
for the paint company,
she discovered each one’s soul
and gave them their names
when we might say
Rose is just rose or
These shades are all the same.
Praise Blanche, who retreated
behind Cubicle Gray for days
to meditate on lilac till we feared
a plunge into monochrome.
When she emerged,
face flushed, her voice was a bell
extolling Silver Chalice!
First Light! Ice Ballet!
each shade a stand
against sorrow and pain,
the void of no-names,
even when the tongue quavered
and came to rest, remembering
someone in palest Lauren’s Lace.