From “Automat” by Kate Colby

from “Automat”

…perhaps you show the way things look the less you show how they are or how we think they are.

—Richard Estes

Please pardon our appearance
while we improve our store
of skyline, X-Acto-ed blue
born of roofs, clouds bound
where they are going, there
but for the eye. Time here
appears to be its opposite
(is plate-glass full or empty
of itself)? It takes a moment
to think about it. A window is
filled with the shape of its limit—
you have to see through this—
we’re split from the world
by being born to it.

When they rolled the stone away
the tomb was taken up with itself.
A dome rises sideways
from vertical horizon, white
winter light, scrim of thin clouds
in front of another. In the unseen
ground beneath, window boxes
of glass flowers housing bees,
neat stacks of window envelopes.
As “appear” can mean “materialize”
or “dissimulate,” leaning, at odds
with the horizontal lines,
the maker looks far away
from our eyes.

Please pardon our appearance
in a parallel light, lined up
with fluorescent tubes. Waiting-
room-blue upstages the ocean.
While I’ve been known
to throw a sea in for scale,
this one has nothing on
the length of intersecting it.
In the divining of eyes,
sextant stars, the nave of my age
imperceptible and streaming
through the clerestory,
all that I see
is the window behind me.

When they rolled the stone away
what ragged form tore out.
Slow cloud rises from site
of detonation: edifice,
collapse and aftermath
co-create a plume of ash,
the nib to write it with.
Take my word for what
ails you in the mouth—spit
images as glass, a dicta-
phonic, You should be in pictures.
What’s a photorealistic poem?
A: “Abstract.” There’s a crack
in the world where the eye goes.

Kate Colby’s most recent books are The Arrangements (Four Way Books, 2018) and Dream of the Trenches (Noemi, 2019). She lives in Providence, where she works as a teacher and copywriter.