Dawn McDuffie

I move closer, right up to the velvet rope
but the painted lady refuses to admit
anything deeper than the layers of gauzy paint.
Like a beggar, like any crazy person,
her story, mine, mostly a fantasy – it’s fantasy
I walk into when I scale those rocky paths,
pass rivers and pools of green water, ask why
this country has no trees. When I finally reach
that enigmatic lady, she is thin as paper,
the smoky atmosphere so soft it seems possible
to walk Into a soul. That’s when the surface
hurts most. I should be smarter than a bird
who tries the solidity of plate glass one more time.
What’s the use? I’ve studied art history
and I’m still lonely. I press against
my lover’s body, only visible because
a halo of darkness shapes him into
a solid object, the modelling of light and dark
so subtle, so tempting, I think boundaries
may be permeable after all, that my shadow
only encloses what seems so bright in him.
My body protects me, snaps me back
to the center of my self, sticky with bad
and good, dark and brightness, where I am
outside again, the other still unknowable.

Dawn McDuffie has lived in Detroit since 1964 and has published poems in Graffiti Rag, Coal City Review, The MacGuffin, The Blue Unicorn Review, The Heartlands Today, Diner, and other journals. She retired from full time teaching in June of 2000 and has an MFA in Poetry from Vermont College.