At The Museum

I watch a sparrow circle the glass ceiling

like wool in a spindle. The world was temporary,

now barred from him. He will soon die

of exhaustion. Marble nudes, milky rivers

frozen in the midst of turmoil or eros,

line the atrium. Most people stop

at the occasional statue, speak to their partners,

and do not notice the bird.

A woman with a blank notebook

examines a painting of an abstract man.

I find myself hating it. I ask her

why she carries the notebook and she says

I never remember the paintings. I say the red here

is hard to forget. I think it means blood and warfare.

She tells me I don’t think we’re allowed to understand.

I don’t know what any of it means.

Once, in another museum, you asked me to tell you

a story about the painting we stood in front of.

It had thick black strokes as if composed

with crude oil. I spoke of a building collapsing into a river.

You said None of these artists knew about sex, not really.

We kissed in a dark exhibit like teenagers.

Months later, I asked you which poems we read

in bed that morning and I believed your answer.

One was about a man in a museum.

Forgetting is my only way to let go of cruelty.

And which janitor, sweeping around the white bodies

at night, will find the fallen sparrow? Will they be

the kind of person who has experience,

who will think nothing of tossing the bird into a bin?

I still hope he might be their first, that they pause

to fan out his feathers with rough hands.

Paige Quiñones

Paige Quiñones is a PhD candidate in poetry at the University of Houston, where she is the Managing Editor at Gulf Coast. She received her MFA from the Ohio State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poetry Northwest, Sycamore Review, and elsewhere.