Building with Its Face Blown Off

Billy Collins

How suddenly the private
is revealed in a bombed-out city,
how the blue and white striped wallpaper

of a second-storey bedroom is now
exposed to the lightly falling snow
as if the room had answered the explosion

wearing only its striped pyjamas.
Some neighbours and soldiers
poke around in the rubble below

and stare up at the hanging staircase,
the portrait of a grandfather,
a door dangling from a single hinge.

And the bathroom looks almost embarrassed
by its uncovered ochre walls,
the twisted mess of its plumbing,

the sink sinking to its knees,
the ripped shower curtain,
the torn goldfish trailing bubbles.

It’s like a dollhouse view
as if a child on its knees could reach in
and pick up the bureau, straighten a picture.

Or it might be a room on a stage
in a play with no characters,
no dialogue or audience,

no beginning, middle and end –
just the broken furniture in the street,
a shoe among the cinder blocks,

a light snow still falling
on a distant steeple, and people
crossing a bridge that still stands.

And beyond that – crows in a tree,
the statue of a leader on a horse,
and clouds that look like smoke,

and even farther on, in another country
on a blanket under a shade tree,
a man pouring wine into two glasses

and a woman sliding out
the wooden pegs of a wicker hamper
filled with bread, cheese and several kinds of olives.