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.
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.
“I think by feeling. What is there to know?
I learn by going where I have to go.”
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