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. . . walking
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. Finally.
I had to give it up; I’d failed. She knew them all. So,
To celebrate our few months together, I gave her
Before we parted one night a necklace with a huge fake
Ruby. 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.