Monday, November 14, 2011

Paul Hostovsky


Isabella Stewart Gardner had a lot of shit,
a lot of very old and beautiful shit
from all over the world, going all the way back to
the Egyptian sarcophagi, which look a lot like bathtubs
though really they're coffins. A whole lot of dead
shit in this museum, is what I'm thinking
to myself, not sharing that thought with the lovely
young woman who brought me here on our second date.
To share the world with the world, Isabella Gardner
built her eponymous museum in the Boston Fenway
in 1898. Now, a hundred and ten years later,
me and Celia are walking through its galleries, not touching
because it's only our second date. And I think it’s obscene
the way she accumulated all this shit and shipped it
back to Boston. And I think it's exactly what’s wrong
with America, the way we keep appropriating
shit that doesn’t belong to us, buying it up and
calling it ours. But I don't tell Celia that because I want
to hold her hand now, which is presently pointing up
at an enormous gilt frame with no painting in it,
her sweet inquiring voice asking the well-ironed
museum guard standing next to it at attention: What
is this?
And he tells us this is the Rembrandt
that was stolen a few years back, along with the Vermeers
and other masterpieces cut right out
of their frames, the way poachers cut the valuable
part of the animal right out of the animal,
leaving the bloody carcass behind for the world
to stare at aghast and brokenhearted. And I think
this is by far the most interesting thing in the museum,
though I don't tell Celia that, her hand in mine now
as we listen together to the museum guard's harrowing tale
of the enemies of art breaking into Isabella's
rooms, and ripping the Dutch masters right out. Like a
, she gasps, squeezing my hand tighter. That's when I
reach for her other hand, which she gives to me now,
so now we're standing face to face, just inches
away from each other's flesh-colored
flesh, which is making the museum guard very
uncomfortable. And he looks away. And I steal a kiss
from Celia. And then I cop a feel of Rubens.

Gerald So reads "My Visit to the Gardner Museum":

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Paul confesses: We were walking around this famous museum full of famous art from all over the world, and there were lots of museum guards whose job it was to make sure you didn't touch. But I wanted to touch. Bad. And they've left the empty frames up on the walls where the infamous art thieves cut the canvasses right out in the infamous art theft. Infamy. Calumny. In flagrante delicto...

PAUL HOSTOVSKY is the author of three books of poetry, Bending the Notes (2008), Dear Truth (2009), and A Little in Love a Lot (2011). His poems have won a Pushcart Prize and been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, The Writer's Almanac, and Best of the Net 2008 and 2009. To read more of his work, visit his website:

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