After “The Red Stairway” by Ben Shahn
If I could step into Masonite,
one foot after another,
I would only need to hear
what war can do; colors can talk.
I imagine ticks of rain against vermilion railing.
Cerulean opens its mouth with failing words,
and a head hanging like its human counterpart;
the clack of his crutch on each step.
The drenched inky cotton coat, heavy now, sticks to skin.
I wonder if his only choice was to keep going,
even if the horizon adorns destruction alike.
Maybe we were all dealt this hand.
The shuffling of steel-toed boots marks life
hidden between broken land and fallen building;
a faceless grey afterthought unique to violence.
I listen for the scuff of footsteps on accidental gravel.
He moves just the same, holding a basket
above his head, a strange golden replacement
for a sunless sky, a dulling yellow.
How can he know, without having eyes?
Perhaps the loudest, I cannot hear:
words void amongst passing bodies.
But then, this painting does nothing,
as I stand agape; why am I surprised?
Its weary wooden frame is neatly suspended,
egg-yolk paint stares back.
The stairway’s end elongates with my glare.
My hand twitches to grasp it, if only momentarily.
War is a tricky thing, an illusion that tells me
“I do not want to be seen, only felt.”
Shahn picked up his brush, feeling.
Those catastrophic strokes paint a familiar world.
With an abundance of blues under his hand, he thinks,
“Is this the only color suitable for war?”
The stairway answers quietly, “War is war.”
Alongside him, I walk with rain- pattered metal;
senseless words, drowned by pigments and hues.
And we both climb, one foot after the other.
Tyana Brock is a Mass Communications major and Creative Writing minor in her senior year. She is grateful to have been selected for RBR and have her work recognized by fellow peers. She wants to thank her professors for all their continuous support in her pursuit of writing and journalism. Her dream is to be a New York Times Bestseller.