Museum and Other Poems

Museum

The Frye, Seattle, January 2020

I do not know if the goose is dead

             or if he’s caught where struggle
comes quiet. On second thought, how

             could he not be dead, his eyelid peace at being held

by a boy at the leg and neck.

             The wings curve

so both daily and angelic: they are beautiful
             like undyed muslin—one can sense
texture of thick weave, vane and barb

             of feathers, can get the touch—

this grace is specific to a beauty without contrast.

             It does not strike. Its patience proves
we are not, enough, patient; we take to sight and air

             too often over earth.

                          *

The women in the second room are all gesture

             —can you feel your own hand here as

not before                     it splits to hold jaw

             and chin at once, it stars at the hip, gathers
fabric translucent at the breast,

             and all these gold rings, stone-set or flat,

sudden glint on your hands

             make marks in flesh below with long wear,

on the pinky tapping metal at the paper
             impressing what the body means to say.

                          *

Sight lines cross the room, considering,
             mineral. Cool armfuls gather up behind faces:

materials for when we’re kept inside,

             though we didn’t know that then
(this was months ago, I was alone,
             the season was winter, the air was wet)

and now might think it more transgressive,
             more pleasurable, more public, more private,

more like the one wing fallen over the boy’s grip

             as the other drops, the bird’s chest
still warm—a violence shown so tender we crave it—

             to be silent and drift among silent people.

Note: This poem’s first and third sections refer to Ludwig Knaus’s The Gypsy Camp (1857), and the second section considers Friedrich August von Kaulbach’s Portrait of Hanna Ralph (ca. 1917), Leopold Schmutzler’s Here I Am (ca. 1910), and Franz von Lenbach’s Eleonora Duse (1886).

Still Life with Mirror

This is a premium subscription story. Please make a $4 donation to access the individual story or a $50 donation to access all the stories in Narrative Backstage for a period of one year.

If you are already a user, but not yet logged in, you may login here.
If you are new to Narrative, signing up is FREE and easy.