The painting hangs at threshold
to the basement—a journey of the sight,
left to right, the way I might
if I were reading, say, a book of some adventure—like
Marco Polo traveling to cities spiced and towered golden--
two approach, the master and the youth, the old
one ushering forever
the novice to the palace. Here,
stately mandarins hold seats
before the scribes, kowtowing to calligraphies.
The inked instruction
I might read from right to left…pine,
the flowered branches leading sight to ocher
roofs. Beyond, the clouds instruct:
Absence is presence
in the higher order of accounts--
not this basement with its binders, this dragonhold
of filed receipts, the reams
in busy folders, this waste
of bark. Wealth
I’ve khanned. I should have left
accumulation at the gate.
Poet, educator and former journalist, Kathleen Hellen is the author of the award-winning collection Umberto’s Night published by Washington Writers’ Publishing House and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra and Pentimento.
Her poems are widely published and have appeared recently or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, The Nation, North American Review, Poetry East, Poetry Daily, the Sewanee Review, Southern Poetry Review, Witness, and elsewhere. She has served as senior poetry editor for the Baltimore Review and now sits on the editorial board of Washington Writers’ Publishing House. Twice nominated for the Pushcart, she teaches in Baltimore.
The Ekphrastic Review
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