For one thing
instead of just sitting in a straight back chair
hunched over a ring of lamplight
I would be standing on a drop cloth
surrounded by open cans of paint,
every one a well of color.
Instead of spending the morning in a corner
I would pace back and forth
under a skylight with gliding clouds.
I would walk the length of a room
that used to be a factory for a company
that sold hat bands, or neckties, or zippers.
Instead of putting one word after another
like building a train
from the locomotive back
I would lay one color next to another,
walk around smoking a cigarette
before adding some yellow to make a chord.
Instead of jigging a pen across a desktop
I would lift a wide brush
like a man raising a hammer,
reaching for a rope,
or grasping the ledge of a window
so as not to fall to the street below.
And when I was done for the day
I would walk up University Place
under the young leafy trees
past all the secretaries heading home
and the men with their heads down.
I would head up to the bar on the corner
with a sore right shoulder,
my nose cutting through the evening air,
my shoes and pants
with orange and blue,
red and black and the palest of yellows.
And if you saw my lips moving
I would be talking to myself
or to the ghost of one of those women
who sat in long rows at their machines
sewing bands into the felt of hats
or sewing zippers into trousers —
mouths with a hundred silvery teeth
which I would recognize right away
as the perfect title for my new painting.