Color by Letters

for T.H.


Every day Trevor posts a new painting on Facebook,

his pace matching the Vermont winter’s tenacity of days

following snow that follow nights following snow.


This morning, above his caption-and-emoji’s promise

of enchiladas and beans on his visit to sun-sopped Tucson,

are two spring saguaros, skirted by a field of reddish flowers.


As I step over the frame’s sill into the desert, I smell new rain.

The air is trenchant with creosote; steam rises from the caliche,

dry as cattle bone an inch beneath the topsoil.


Yesterday, his canvas drove me beyond the vanishing point

of a road that narrowed into a blizzard under a darkening sky.

My defroster thins the bushy moustache of ice forming


on the wipers: if the whoosh whoosh quits, I’m doubly blind

with a quilt of snow covering the windshield.  Without seeing,

I abruptly sense a standing darkness a hundred feet away.


Trevor’s brush didn’t capture the S swerve of the taillights,

the car slipping just shy of death for me and for the elk,

smelling the wind in the middle of the road.


He was busy chewing beans in front of tomorrow’s canvas.



– Richard Cummins

Richard Cummins has published poems and articles in several national journals such as North American Review, Cottonwood, Birmingham Poetry Review, Epiphany, International Journal of Servant-Leadership, and others. He is the co-author of a book on college writing. He has worked as a faculty member in community colleges and is a former college president and university chancellor living in Seattle with his wife. They have two children, one finishing an undergraduate degree and the other working as a writer and editor in NYC.