The Palette


“Cold and the colors of cold . . . / I huddle, hoard, hold out, hold on, hold on.”
—Robert Francis, “Cold”

The palette loses warmth: the hair gone gray,
the teeth not quite so white,
the skin spattered with spots—not the spray

of tiny freckles firmer flesh might draw
from summer’s genial light,
but larger, darker spots from glare as raw

as time itself, which burns us ruthlessly
until it renders cold,
strange portraits of familiar atrophy.

Yet we assume that we can still resist,
still wield a brush and hold
an undiminished palette. We insist

we’ll be preserved by grit and eloquence:
naïve as morning glories,
we clutch at canvases whose permanence

was never ours. We’re victims of a con—
one made of our own stories,
and so persuasive we hold on, hold on.

Jean L. Kreiling is the author of two poetry collections, Arts & Letters & Love (2018) and The Truth in Dissonance (2014), and a past winner of the Able Muse Write Prize, the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters Sonnet Award, three New England Poetry Club prizes, the String Poet Prize, and other honors.