Poem

The New York Review of Books - - Contents - Mar­i­anne Boruch

Those Poor Clares must won­der why the racket

louder than usual, three-eu­ros-a-pop tourists queu­ing up out­side, week­ends the con­vent on pause.

It’s the noise in their heads, the old nun might say with what’s left in her head, the girl­hood part: war,

a low-fly­ing plane, the loud hoarse agony

of cows shat­tered from above into pe­tal by red pe­tal, gar­ish sprays in grass north of these olive groves.

(Mu­seum of Si­lence as se­cret or scent, day of mis­judg­ment,

Italy, the baf­fling web­site, our

stop-start train to Fara Sabina.)

Quiet is what’s af­ter, the old nun tells the young nun who has an edge, that eye thing, she has a look.

This too I in­vent: Is it van­ity or just an old woman in won­der, go­ing on so vividly the long ago boy in that cock­pit

can’t even have a thought, he’s so scared.

And the younger nun: So now it’s for­give us their tres­passes?

Not out loud. In her head. Be­lief can nar­row for good like that. What’s left is a lever, a sim­ple jack of amaze­ment to pry open the very first mu­seum on earth,

a sanc­tu­ary for the muses.

Of course. From the Greek mουσεῖον, and part ceme­tery. Latin’s closer, mūsēum, its small ban­quet room to keep

the dead liv­ing, a spot for rev­er­ent frolic and grief. The An­cients mourn, lov­ing the lost off to their

out-of-body nowhere or some­where,

eat­ing with them one last time.

The orig­i­nal church base­ment lunch af­ter the fu­neral, I sup­pose.

And those ladies who toil for us among the fruit salad, ham spread, the muted voices—

O long-robed muses of old­est days

(for po­etry lyric and epic and sa­cred, for Mu­sic, His­tory, Dance, et al.), come hither! Even you, word­less stricken one

called Tragedy, the start over, dark for­ever thus in such places, that bright

moth bit­ten-blind ring of leaves you wear.

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