Missing the Forest for the Forest

Everything useful had been requisitioned
to suppress the rebellion in the laboratories:
researchers were assembling copies of readymades
out of funnels, burners, and flasks,
and nakedness like that, sometimes it's enough
to make people pause. Police called headquarters
and asked for the chief art historian-in-residence—
there might be something to save in the décor.
The chief convened a committee that had been formed
in the wake of the last insurrection,
but the committee, saddened by their experience
with a recent restoration, did not know if they had permission to give.

I lingered over your letters, picking stray threads of twine,
appreciating the steep angle of ink on the envelopes,
the scent of paste and raked grass. Opening one, I found
a brownish outline of a folded flower with its bouquet of dust 
and read As there was a timbre of those lacquered chests
in which the bridal dress and veil will wait,
as one might recognize, on the wall of a painting
of the artist’s studio, a still life by that same artist,
merely by a dash of color and line within color and line,
so there is a quality of red that was not the red of blood or rust,
but simultaneous to each, living, unliving, in this I enclose.

I would have read this letter to the meadows and streams.
I would have read it to the confessors and confessants. 
It would have been enough to wake that self
who appears sometimes as a walk-on in the film
we watch alone each night. But the dogs were beginning to bark
and, besides, you asked me to burn them all.
The buses were running, though few knew for how long,
and they were crawling with eager caricaturists.
Here, on the floor of the bakery, it was better to lie still,
covered in sugar and flour and wait for morning.

V. Joshua Adams is the author of a chapbook, Cold Affections (Plan B Press, 2018). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bennington Review, Posit, Painted Bride Quarterly, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. A former editor of Chicago Review, as well as a translator and critic, he teaches literature and writing at the University of Louisville.