for John Ash

The Middle Ages had ended
even in the provinces,
but at first no one noticed
that apples stayed green,
and the juice of pomegranates ran brown.

After winter, the red mines closed.
The words crimson, scarlet, cardinal
passed from common use,
and poets began to praise
ocher lips, amber cheeks.

Bureaucrats cast off their official hats
(tall crimson cylinders),
and no one could paint the Tanager
save with a kind of umber
milled from certain ores