for Ciprian Guriel

Like a gallery wall without a theme
or a wall of windows
that won’t make up its mind
and vacillates on the vistas
it gives way to,
the typical page of paper my father
stuck his stamps on
is drywall in a dream:
eight and a half by eleven inches
of plaster whose portals
(perforated squares)
look upon a world
of incongruous parts—an Eiffel Tower here,
two wrestlers knotted there,
a biplane crop-dusting this corner,
some Queen ennobling that—
panels in a comic
book without cause
and effect. But because
he can no longer say the names
of this stuff his stamps frame—
because of the stroke—
my father can only point
to and take a tally
of these windows he long ago
decided would go
together, even though they opened
onto different kinds of light
and weather. So I turn
the pages. I point out stamps
I know to be his favorites.
But I want the well-meaning
nurse (who stops to feign an interest,
leaning over the stamps
and speaking in the baby-talk
that seems to be an old man’s birthright)
to stop and look again:
this is the work of one
of the great surrealists.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 30 Number 3, on page 31
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