I’ve been thinking a lot about this poem published in the latest issue of Redivider. I wrote it more than a year ago, but it feels particularly ominous now.
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.
Some mornings pray themselves open.
I skirt the shoreline, weaving with the tide,
my pockets heavy
with rocks and shells, ancient
litter, evidence of a life
lived at the edges of things. Some pieces
are only ever
broken, bone pores gritted
with mica, the wave-smoothed rift
and algal stain. This sand-
dollar fragment chips from its star-whorl,
vulnerable there, where beauty
meets function meets beauty. I press a hand against
my own center, feel
the seam where waves would crack me. In such a vast
calcifying tumbler, who could keep
what’s necessary? I let silt and
silver wash through my foothold. Finger
the grit. Let the tide, as it
will, draw in.
This poem appeared in Rock & Sling.