A Small Room In Aspen By William Matthews

A Small Room In Aspen

Stains on the casements,
dustmotes, spiderless webs.
No chairs, and a man waking up,
or he’s falling asleep

Many first novels begin
with the hero waking up,
which saves their authors
from writing well about sleep.

His life is the only novel
about him. Mornings
he walks past the park:
Tai Ch’i students practicing

like slow lorises.
A room on the second floor.
He’d dreamed of a ground floor
room, an insistent cat

at the door, its mouth pink
with wrath he couldn’t salve
and grew to hate. All afternoon
he’s a cloud that can’t rain.

There’s no ordinary life
in a resort town, he thinks,
though he’s wrong: it laces
through the silt of tourists

like worm life. At dusk
the light rises in his room.
A beautiful day, all laziness
and surface, true without

translation. Wherever I go
I’m at home, he thinks,
smug and scared both,
fierce as a secret,

8,ooo feet above sea level.
The dark on its way down
has passed him, so he seems
to be rising, after the risen

light, as if he were to keep watch
while the dark sleeps,
as if he and it were each
other’s future and children.

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