The Architect's Widow

Now, you only notice city windows
when thin light warms behind them,

shadows gathering in white pleats
of curtains, foggy as tracing paper,

their billows breaking the rigid frame.
This is what he meant by negative

space: not the domes of the cathedral,
but the places you stand to see

their familiar swell. Still, to watch you
startle at your reflection in the blisters

of his windows, your shoulders sloped
— gentle curve of a wingback chair —

the city’s wind snared between girders,
facades of red brick, the body’s tilt

in a warp of glass, is to know something
of the way light distorts the thing it touches.

Once, he told you that each bend in every
building has as many names as Rochester’s

phonebook: fanlight, oculus, loggia — yet,
no single word for the way rain darkens

the shingles of the steeple or how the roof’s
fixed line dovetails a blurred sky.

Brandon Courtney spent four years in the United States Navy. His poetry is forthcoming or appears in Best New Poets 2009, Linebreak, and The Los Angeles Review among others, and he has recently been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He attends the M.F.A. program at Hollins University. (

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761