Henri Cole

Black Camellia
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Little room, with four and a half tatami mats

and sliding paper doors, that used to be

a white, translucent place to live in refined poverty,

what are you now but scalding water in a bath?

Little mattress, that used to fold around me

at sunrise as unfinished dreams were fading,

what are you now but a blood-red palanquin

of plucked feathers and silk airing in the sun?

Weeding the garden, paring a turnip, drinking tea

for want of wine, I flee from my secret love

and from my mind's worm—This is a poem.

Is this a table? No, this is a poem. Am I a girl?—

seeking out the meat-hook crowd I once loathed,

so afraid am I of finding myself alone.

Photos courtesy of Susan Unterberg (unless otherwise noted).