She shone from inside,
her skin like sunlit clouds,
her eyelashes pins of light.
He followed her, his beacon,
to escape the grey lands,
to emerge in the world each morning.
Simple man who wore
the ghosts of his beloved Vitebsk
like a comforting shawl;
because he knew they weren't ghosts at all.
Reduced to ruins by Nazi hands,
but he found it again
the first time he followed her
beyond the grey lands.
She first revealed herself to him
long years before
he left the black and white of Russia
for the kaleidoscope of Paris:
in days when his world held nothing more
than carts and cows and long school hours,
and dreams of magic-colored laughter.
At first he thought her nothing more
than his beautiful Bella
perceived in spirit by his yearning soul:
lounging nude atop
the roses on the mantle;
staring up at him from puddles,
a distaff reflection;
beheld in nighttime visions,
borne away on horses
by shadowy barbarians,
or towering anxiously over
infinities of forest where fey children played.
But he knew her to be something more
when every sighting became the same:
a shining figure cut from a summer sky,
kneeling alone, head bowed,
solemn as his mother praying at the synagogue,
a steady lamp in a vast plain of shifting grey.
She stayed with him in Moscow and Berlin,
and the creative tempest of the Paris streets.
He watched her each night, but
kept his distance, more awed than afraid.
She stayed with him, when the Stalin plague,
then the Blitzkrieg,
walled his childhood home away.
When he and Bella fled to America,
when the message came, surreal psychic telegram,
that Nazis had hollowed out his beloved town,
that's when he overcame his awe,
when he spoke to her, when she stood,
beckoned him to follow
through the grey lands, past
the smiling red-eyed soldiers, past
the white crucifix leaning above the ruins.
Past all that, and there they were,
breathing in strange new space:
green-faced violin players guarding
vertical streets; carts full of children flying
above rooftops, pulled by manic nags
whose foals romped among stars;
men and women unclothed, unbound
by flesh or gravity, finding untried ways
to interlock; quiet Jews robed in earth
and light, still insisting on prayer;
winged jugglers with hummingbird heads
and wide sympathetic eyes;
all things freed of black and white
to be seen as they always truly were.
His own eyes brimming, he raised
his hands—now seven-fingered—
blew kisses to her glowing form in gratitude.
He built monuments to her in glass,
the light he knew as hers filtered
through the tints of the true universe
which he saw at firsthand each night
beyond the grey lands.
The final time he followed her,
as age, infirmity, uncertainty
slipped from him like a snake's skin,
he flowed across the space between them,
touched her at last, pressed flowers
into her warm, beaming hands.
Blood-red fauns and sea-blue nymphs
danced around his naked body and hers
at their wedding feast.