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For Heather McHugh
In the stratification of domestic perception,
the man walks through the living room and notes
the mantel’s pricy bric-a-brac; the child stares up
at a light bulb, brighter than the sun beneath
the floor lamp’s shade. For the dog, it’s knees
and tabletops. For the cat, it’s the darting escapes
of the small. Mouse, cockroach and louse—worlds
scaled to discriminating ambitions and dimensions.
How easily overthrown when the man, in his hurry,
stops and turns, puts a hand to his heart, and then
drops past mantel, lamp and table top—thump!
Now his eyes focus on the coffee table’s claw foot,
next on a single burnished claw stretched toward
a scrap of walnut hung up on filaments of carpet,
a tidbit dropped by a grandson. After that, he spots
specks of lint, dust motes that grow with his attention
so huge they change into solar systems with planets
where he might see cities, rooftops and, who knows,
even a man mowing his lawn, if he had the time.
But now his eyes fix on a vortex of pink spirals, ridges
and rills whirling inward to the labyrinth’s still center
where at last his focus stops. Why, look, it’s his own
dear fingerprint. First there forever, and then not.
“Scale” from The Day’s Last Light Reddens the Leaves of the Copper Beech, copyright 2016 by Stephen Dobyns, BOA Editions, Ltd.