Appropriation

 

If I were an artist I’d paint this room,

a living room it is and one in front of which

I am entitled to put the first person singular possessive,

 

as if I were the lighting designer who created this morning sunshine

and divided it by fifty-six mullioned panes,

the dyer who spilled it across the fabric of the furniture,

the refinisher who varnished it on oak floors which someone,

a lifetime ago, troubled to inlay with a double dark boarder,

 

as if I were one of a dozen children

who sat to countless dinners at what is now

a library table, into which I did not grind

my first food stains, nor apply the paint

still flecking its underside spring green.

 

Oh I’ve read the bright books lining the end wall

but didn’t write one of them, nor did I design

their jackets or make their paper from trees,

mix the ink, set the type.

 

And I did not weave the rich complex rug

in rich complex Afghanistan,

or wear the Sarawak basket on my back

in the forests of Borneo, nor was I the animal

who gave its skin for the lid.

 

It wasn’t I who freed the African stool from a trunk

with rough tools to bend its knees bowlegged

between brown earth and brown sky,

but it is the flesh of my back

this morning sun’s a radiant heater to,

and if the sun grows too hot it’s my sweat,

and it’s my broken face slivered

in the eighteenth century mirror,

fire-singed and thinned.