Empty Drawing Room

Amid the brocade’s dimness
the mahogany suite continues
its everlasting conversation.
The daguerrotypes tell their lie:
a false nearness
of old age cloistered in a mirror,
and when we look hard they elude us
like pointless dates
of murky anniversaries.
With a blurred gesture
their anxious almost-voice
runs after our souls
more than half a century late
and there it’s scarcely reached
the first mornings of our childhood.
Actuality, ceaseless,
ruddy and beyond doubt,
celebrates in the street’s traffic
its unassailable abundance
of present apotheosis,
while the light
slices through the windowpanes
and humbles the senile armchairs
and corners and strangles
the shriveled voice
of these ancestors.

Translated by W. S. Merwin