The Helen Portrait
Dies nächt sinf nicht für die menge gemacht
(Nights are not made for the masses)
—Rainier Maria Rilke
The Book of Pictures
Night. She hopes she looks east. One husband liked
early sun on her impossible face. Night
makes her sing of touch. He asked a picture
be made. She’d lean on a terrace, east wall
ahead of her—for the light. She knew his fall—
that death—waited there. He meant to see her
at his end. Small man came with a smooth
board, pumiced. He arranged paint wells, burnt sticks.
Then he looked at her for days. He didn’t move.
She stood, silent as a laurel. She knew
what was and what was coming. Her eyes fixed
the distance. On the third day he tried
a stroke of charcoal, sounding like a wound
on an unshaved face. She looked out and sighed
the sigh of one who knew. He sketched. At noon,
he left. The board was bare. She’s seen his hand
moving. Heard it draw. She breathed, but kept still.
Next dawn, he tried again. Again. Again.
No pictures exists and no picture will.
The Blind Room
The blind room hides decks of blank cards. You look
for symbols, faces, you see richest dark
revealing meanings you can’t quite read—
not here. This special place, built out need
for one place you’re never meant to see.
Rest blind. The room hides and those blank cards look
back at you, cheating but chaste. Unmarked.
You deal crisp cards by touch. It’s still a game
that must get played. Of course you’ll bet blind,
dropping colorless chips on what must be
green felt. Click. One. Two. More? At least three
players. A voice says, “call.” Rakes chips. He
says, “deal.” New cards touch your fingers. The game
goes on. Repeats. The voices are soft, kind.
They play, careful as pianists. Each note,
each card is important. When they begin,
you lose. The hands, the blank cards, must be played.
Toss plastic at the kitty. Never raise
no matter which suits you think you hold. Say
check. Play cards like a piano. Take notes.
Soon, these blinds will open. Light must pour in.
Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Roshi San Francisco, was just published by Norfolk Publishing. Starting from Tu Fu was recently published by Encircle Publications. A new collection, Something to Be, and a novel are forthcoming. His first chapbook won the Negative Capability Award, and he has been nominated for Best of the Net and twice for the Pushcart Prize. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian Joan Juster. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, or his website.