“If These Walls Could Talk” at Real Toads. I chose the First Class Reading and Writing Room–USS Titanic
The film’s exposure may have caught it right–black ink stains of shadows
butting up to white explosions of sunlight through the windows,
through the curtains even, all that light warming the orientals
and swag. The sound the last man’s trousers made as they
whisked over the fine floral chair cushion–burgundy. I imagine.
And bourbon beneath crystal stoppers, so smooth a sail
the liquor is still. A lovely woman wanders in here in the
long hour of the afternoon-her thin arm embracing
the white pillar, delicate piano fingers slowly tracing
the cool, glossy molding. She has never made love yet.
She carries that around like a question.
She has never been known.
I am stuck on this woman; I write about her in
this reading room and she is all I see now, her violet skirt panels
cinched at the waist, lace and satin belts. She is in here for the
many reasons a woman will wander and softly touch things in the quiet,
a calm pale flesh covering her body that stirs with the
longings of that age. My age.
She thinks-when this room is in silence on the sea
and the men are gone to deck or below–how so exposed it is,
no one to manipulate the atmosphere, no one to fill the room
with the self-important presence carried aboard up here, idle
and eternal–time stops at sea. The future is
tangible, steady, firm.
Let us name her Corrin–so that I may know her.
So that you may know her, in this writing room,
as she passes the settee, drawn out of the
black ink shadows and into the gray and white faded shot
of the room, drawing a finger across the mahogany
table, she comes into color and focus over this marbled wood,
her dress is violet again, her cheeks pink,
she looks back into her reflection on the table.
Corrin sees an expressionless woman, as if seeing
herself for the first time in private–she moves her neck
a little. Watches the shadows change across
her cheekbones and jaw line.
Is this okay? she wonders to herself, Is this okay, this face?
This woman here, waiting–is she…desirable?
She studies in silence, trying to see
what a man will someday see.
Will she be able to look at
him with her eyes just as they are now–
accepting herself as a fact–blinking,
and timeless, the sea stops this in her too.
Scuffing footsteps approach outside
and it all falls away as she shrinks to pose.
For a brief moment Corrin was the photographer
of a fine room, capturing by accident
the variations of exposure–the faded
weak impression of the splendid
details, but hard pressed and sure on shadow and light–
the essence we frame.