Die Muhle Brennt—Richard

(after a painting by Georg Bazelitz)

When the red chair suspended in air 
grazes the top of your head
and the white pitcher that rests on the chair

neither falls nor spills, you will move
to the window, or the empty space 
in the wall left by the guns on the hill

just outside the city, and be amazed 
at the mill ablaze in the distance, 
the loud report of dry beams knuckled

under heat, the carousel of shadows spun 
around the orange center of the flames, 
because you know this cannot happen here

or because you know the mill's been on fire 
for so long that the city's been consumed 
entirely and the heat from the mill

has blistered the red paint on the chair 
and dried the water from the pitcher, 
and, if you wait one more instant,

afraid that it is too late, it will be too late, 
and the chair and pitcher will drift 
through your hair as ash.

Copyright © 2002 by Richard Matthews. Reprinted with the permission of Grove Press. All rights reserved.