by Lisel Mueller, from Alive Together
1. How I would Paint the Future
A strip of horizon and a figure,
seen from the back, forever approaching.
2. How I would Paint Happiness
Something sudden, a windfall,
a meteor shower. No —
a flowering tree releasing
all its blossoms at once,
and the one standing beneath it
unexpectedly robed in bloom,
transformed into a stranger
to beautiful to touch.
3. How I would Paint Death
White on white or black on black.
No ground, no figure. An immense canvas,
which I will never finish.
4. How I would Paint Love
I would not paint love.
5. How I would Paint the Leap of Faith
A black cat jumping up three feet
to reach a three-inch shelf.
6. How I would Paint the Big Lie
Smooth, and deceptively small
so that it can be swallowed
like something we take for a cold.
An elongated capsule,
an elegant cylinder,
sweet and glossy,
that pleases the tongue
and goes down easy,
the poison inside.
7. How I would Paint Nostalgia
An old-fashioned painting, a genre piece.
People in bright and dark clothing.
A radiant bride in white
standing above a waterfall,
watching the water rush
away, away, away.