Wednesday Dec 13

Rebecca Lindenberg currently holds a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center fellowship.  Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in The Believer, Colorado Review, No Tell Motel, Denver Quarterly, Barrow Street, POOL and elsewhere, and she is finishing a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Utah.
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In the Museum of Lost Objects
 
You’ll find labels describing what is gone:
An Empress’s bones, a stolen painting
 
of a man in a feathered helmet
holding a flag on a spear.
 
A vellum gospel dissolved in lye
would have sat on this pedestal,
 
this glass cupboard could keep the first
salts carried back from the Levant.
 
To help us comprehend the scale
of what we do not have, huge rooms
 
sit empty of their wonders – the Colossus,
Babylon’s Hanging Gardens and
 
in this gallery, empty shelves for all
scrolls burnt at Alexandria.
 
I’ve petitioned the curator, my love,
and he has acquired an empty chest
 
representing all the poems you will
now never write. It will be kept
 
with blank folios of Keats’ unconceived
work, Shelley’s unperfected ideals,
 
Hart Crane’s vanished genius, all
Rimbaud could have penned but didn’t.
 
Next door to the poet’s display
an empty room echoes with the spill
 
of buried jewels whose pirate died
before disclosing their whereabouts.
 
I hope you don’t mind but I have kept
a few of your pieces
 
for my private collection. I think
you know the ones I mean.
 
 
 
Quo Vadis
 
“I think by feeling. What is there to know?
I learn by going where I have to go.”
            -Theodore Roethke
 
The road back to Rome unscrolls
around mountain and parapet.
 
I am telling Robin an apocryphal story
he could not care less about
 
but will remember later. You steer
close to the center line. Back to Rome
 
to be crucified, my story ends,
Upside down. At the bottom of our hill.
 
In the parking lot above San Pancrazio,
on my daily route to market,
 
Quo Vadis appears across a billboard
photograph of a woman’s calves, seamed
 
into fishnets, black stilettos. Where do you
think you’re going? The film ad seems
 
to answer its own question: Where
does one wear fishnets and stilettos, if not
 
an execution? Now you ask me
to pull out a map. What road
 
are we even on? You want to know.
Does it matter, I joke, Where do all roads lead?
 
I unfold heavy paper towards our last
known location. Do you know where we’re going yet?
 
Always such urgency. Such muscular
impatience. Not yet, I reply. Just drive.

 

 

 
The Winged Skull (Graverubbings #2)
 
Last night, again                     you tried to help me
find something                                    in a kingdom
whose people are encrusted with shells.
 
Finally             even my dreamlogic    knows
it can’t be you.
 
Saltweather and seabluster     efface language
from cement-encased              headstones
in Winthrop Street.     Carvings like stained glass
transoms over a door  endure –
 
Winged skulls’                        wide eroding sockets
            keep vigilant. Willows shed tiny
leaves over crumbled urns.      A compass
 
navigates stone-winnowing storms.    Symbols
remain and I    name them
according to my reasons
 
for knocking around graveyards.
On cemetery road                   a windowed crypt
 
houses a nine-year-old girl.     In Sacred
Memory. Its carving delicate: She fell
asleep.                         Decades ago
 
someone chucked a Coke can
through the carved fleur
into frail tatters                       of a wintering vine.
This doesn’t this bother me
 
nearly as much as the lie                     the refusal
                                                to name it: Death. 
The dead are safe from their dreams
 
and ours. I dreamed
a friend’s early return. When I saw his truck
parked beneath my window
 
I wondered:                            Had its whine
filtered through                       the sense sleep makes
of sounds?       And is that not           
mystery                       enough?