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 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.