For an entire year she dressed in all the shades
Of ash — the gray of old paper; the deeper,
Almost auburn ash of pencil boxes; the dark, nearly
Black marl of oak beds pulled from burning houses.
That year, even her hair itself was woven
With an ashen white, just single threads here & there.
Yet the effect at last was of a woman
Constructed entirely of evening shadows .
Toward you out of an antique ink-&-pearl snapshot.
Still, it was exactly the kind of sadness
I could understand, & even love; & so, I spent hours
Walking the back streets of Trastevere looking in the most
Forbidding & derelict shops for some element of ash
She’d never seen before.
It may seem odd to you, now,
But this was the single ambition of my life.
I had to give it up; I'd failed.
She knew them all.
To celebrate our few months together, I gave her
Before we parted one night a necklace with a huge fake
She slipped it immediately over her head, & its knuckle
Of red glass caught the light reflecting off the thin candles
Rising by the bed.
On her naked breasts it looked exactly
Like an unworldly, burgundy coal.
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