Joshua Allen

Withdrawn: An Art Installation

Through these lighted apertures I watch
flashes of color:
a band of roseate seashells
around a woman’s wrist.
Now, a dilated eye,
pastoral green, reflecting my own.

Following these voyeurs are
wraiths of halcyon days:
Helena in coital chiaroscuro,
or in an Indian summer dawn
collecting vacant shells
from tide pools. I sketched
the crabs scurrying around
her naked feet.

Students gather in the courtyard
copying in their notebooks
my performance, as it were.
This committed exteriorization
of my usual state—for them,
an exercise in perspective.

They are
faces without
the graffiti
of fear or grief:
implacable shells
of an interior darkness.

The noon performer arrives
with her bass clarinet
on the musée steps.
The plaintive tone
catalogues every wave
that has pressed on that beach
since that night seascape
when I was drunk
and I saw
the vulnerable red flesh
of a homeless hermit crab
crawling over black rock.


The morning after our mutual cruelty

all I could see
was the broken glass in the yard
from the window,
and the crabgrass
growing through the sidewalk,
and the ants
under the birch tree
swarming the raw-flesh bird.