Nebraska Center for Writers


Before him are long tall margins of vellum
and on the page the characters sacredly drawn.
His pens sleep. Beside them the onyx eye
of the ink. And he looks at the table.

Then opening small vessels of folium,
of indigo and orpiment, white and red lead,
he offers his hands. The kermes, or carmine red,
weeps with Christ's blood, remembering.

And the ultramarine, elaborately prepared
by the Arabs and as precious as gold,
rests in its silver cask, on which are
peacock heads with eyes of lapis lazuli.

A door creaks. Brother Jasper slips out
for another night of the flesh. Down the hall
the old abbot himself falls dangerously into
his sleep, the other cells collapsing in darkness.

But in the marginalist's, verdigris is opened,
the extract of malachite. Outside, where
the dark muscles its way toward the coast
or plays the empty eyeholes of a Viking's mask,

there is dead weight. Inside there's oil light,
and a slim green line that begins its pilgrimage
across a maiden page.

Reprinted with permission
from The Marginalist
Copyright © 1992
by Don Welch
Sandhills Press


This morning there is a center to silence,
a snow no one has ever walked upon,
and the wind has folded up
like a mastiff deep in sleep . . .

In the other world a fox has stopped walking,
for a moment neither going on
nor doubling back, but standing stock-still
in the indicative mood.

What it sniffs is a seamless air,
what it wears is a white wedge of head.
Somewhere generals and politicians clang
like dull brass in their haste,

there are pedants slipping into passive voices,
losing themselves in a blur of intentions
while remaining strong in their rank.

But here there is nothing to forgive,
nothing at all.

As if white were the presence of absence...

Reprinted with permission
from The Marginalist
Copyright © 1992
by Don Welch
Sandhills Press

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The Rock

Nebraska Center for Writers