It was getting late in the year,
the sky had been low and overcast for days,
and I was drinking tea in a glassy room
with a woman without children,
a gate through which no one had entered the world.
She was turning the pages of a large book
on a coffee table, even though we were drinking tea,
a book of colorful paintings–
a landscape, a portrait, a still life,
a field, a face, a pear and a knife, all turning on the table.
Men had entered the gate, but no boy or girl
had ever come out, I was thinking oddly
as she stopped at a page of clouds
aloft in a pale sky, tinged with red and gold.
This one is my favorite, she said,
even though it was only a detail, a corner
of a larger painting which she had never seen.
Nor did she want to see the countryside below
or the portrayal of some myth
in order for the billowing clouds to seem complete.
This was enough, this fraction of the whole,
just as the leafy scene in the windows was enough
now that the light was growing dim,
as was she enough, perfectly by herself
somewhere in the enormous mural of the world.
–Billy Collins, Ballistics: Poems