This poem was written in the style of Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California” in response to an exercise calling for writing one in the style of a Walt Whitman poem. I didn’t have good results with that, but it brought to mind the Ginsberg poem, which addresses Whitman directly and in a style that echoes his. When I tried from that angle, this poem sprang to life.
At the Science Museum of Minnesota
down Kellogg Boulevard half sun-blind.
the museum. Your ghost holds the double glass doors, takes my arm
in the foyer. My hard-heeled shoes crack on the polished floor like
March lake-ice, enormous in the hush.
the potsherds, your hands passing through the glass-topped display drawers,
hear the rolling burr of you reading the signs aloud to me.
the trash of ancient trade, leavings of a tribe a thousand miles
from the sea. The scrap of charred mammoth-tusk in a leather
pouch thinned to translucence by time was a hunter’s charm.
it belonged to is saying in your left. We go on, room to room
together, tasting the words for tools that hands no longer hold:
adze, awl, club, hide scraper.
strike it with the flat of your palm. Behind us, a ghost-heron rises
shrieking. You patter your fingers over the drumhead a dozen times
and the room fills: Spirit-ravens and ghost-elk crowd around and
between us. My arm slips from your grasp and then they’re gone, and
you with them.
stream as I look at displays of the things time erases. Is the hand
of God you saw on the mountains still on the titmice here, bridled,
crested, and stuffed?