Tilda Swinton and people who live in glass houses

After reading this New York Daily News article about Tilda Swinton’s recent exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, I wrote this poem.

Just Like the Movies

The famous sleep more artfully
than the rest of us, with their shoes on,

in unrumpled denim. Tilda Swinton’s shirt
stays tucked, her face a pleasant dream-smile
as patrons to the Museum of Modern Art
cluster around her glass enclosure, watching
her chest rise and fall. Materials include

water jug, linen, and spectacles. Spectacle. How
did she get in there? The element of uncertainty
is key to the work itself, museum staff told
the New York Daily News. No one knows

until the day she’s coming that she’ll be there,
centerpiece of an exhibit she’s titled “The Maybe.”

Maybe an empty mattress. Maybe (she is, after
all, an actress) not really asleep. Just lying there,
breathing in our praise and amazement that

someone famous would box herself in glass
so we can see her when she (as far
as we know) can’t see us.

—Kathryn Smith

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