A Setting of the Heart Still

Poem by Dick Allen

The room behind the sunlight shining through
    a dire Hopper painting,
who lives in there? Who’s hiding? Why
   that opening

only into partial views? Half a chair,
   the plain edge of a picture frame,
a quarter cushion of a plush red couch,
   and its left arm

are all we see.  The rest
   may not exist,
for all we’re meant to know in full
   is emphasis:

that wall—the sunlight on that wall,
   the shape of it
determined by the aperture
   though which it fit,

and left whoever is unseen
   such privacy
that what is done for spite or good
   or from lunacy

by woman or by man or child
   means little, less than little, less
than light and dark and color of
   resentfulness

which never chooses to confront
   the other side of things
and by such willful leaving out achieves its own
   righteous balancing

in white and blue and shadow and bare floor,
   a bureau drawer
so tightly closed that all we have of it
   is it’s rectangular.

And us? The messy, strewing, dropping, spilling
   beings looking in?
How shall we ever get around the corner and beyond
   such discipline?