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26 Colors of White

by Ann Emerson

Snow on the steeple tops.
The young, tubercular Chopin
with his time running thin.
The skull shining through, irridescent.
Archangels making house calls.
White host elevated.  My mother's fingers
multiplying across ivory keys.
In my throat the strangled singing
of pale homesickened doves.
The color of music,
the only color the stomach can tolerate.
Rice, banana and milk,
butter from Ireland, saltines.
Starched cotton of hospital sheet,
plastic bracelet circling my wrist,
waivers to sign, coffee whitener
clumped in water lukewarm.
The dissection of tendons
going on at the medical school next door.
Violins on the CD player, cat gut fastening.
The small animal thumping, accidentally,
though already pinned down.
Poland in winter.
Nocturne in C minor, each note crystalline.
Soldiers frozen in bundles.  More souls
immaculate, snowflakes six millionfold, lifting.
Death will and cannot prevail.  

Ann Emerson works as an analyst for the state of California.