Mourner with Cowl, Hands in his Sleeves

The docent says I can’t have a pen
in this room, I can’t write
with a pen — No ink, ink stains —

only the erasable, only

the easily removed, and if I were
to use a pencil to vandalize
with mustache or initials
one of the thirty-seven Mourners

of Dijon, it would be her job
(and pleasure)
to have me thrown out

in handcuffs. A friend says: Never

trust an establishment
that doesn’t have graffiti in the bathroom
It’s a good thing

she’s here, the docent warns,
It’s a good thing:

my purse is almost big
enough to slip in one
of the statuettes like a small chic
dog, and walk out.

Last week, a woman was carrying

such a huge pocketbook
that when turning to walk
away from a Monet, the bag scraped
the canvas. I say,

that must have made you

very nervous, tucking
my hands into my pockets, a sign

of fidelity, and turn

to walk the display of alabaster
bishops, monks, choirboys, a foot
and a half high each, eggwhite

in color except for their rosaries,
books, the aspergillum, all the color
of smudged away

lipstick. They once processed,
or seemed to, a kind of danse macabre, at the base
of the tombs of the Dukes
of Burgundy, until ravaged by revolution,

sold off, stolen, or destroyed, most

kept in private collections
as spoil, as totem to a lost kingdom —

The docent says there’s a film
playing in the next room, perhaps I’d like to see

the Mourners in context
of the interviewed historians?
I’ve stopped watching

television news. The last
postcard my father sent — the ruins
of Shahr-e-Gholghola, the City of


a ghost town of Genghis Kahn,
pillaged in the Afghan Civil War. I know my father

never left Bagram to see the site
dissolving into the desert, like hourglass
pillars, the postcard sold
at the Exchange

and written at his office desk, in the lab
with its vials, its radial

maps of bomb blasts, blood splatter, or else

the contractor’s quarters. There are others
that are lost, you know,

the docent says, ones they never

found. By now, others have
arrived in the gallery. A boy in uniform
reaches out to touch Mourner

with Cowl, Hands in His

Sleeves. The docent roars, alive
in her watchfulness —
I never wrote back, never

sent what I’d written,

for the father I’ve looted,
the ruined city
I could reach out to but never touch.

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