Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to me had I not resigned from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Security Department in 2002. I was enjoying my work and was attached to the museum. It is an extraordinary place, especially when walking through it after it closes to the public and the lights start turning off. Did not get to bust any ghosts, but that’s okay. The Met got into me and many of my poems while I was there and since. Here are just three old ones. A framed early draft of “New York City Armor” hung in the employee art show special gallery. “Recruitment…” is the result of overnight rounds through deserted darkened galleries and loving Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. If you are interested in sobering realism, take a look at “Late Watch at The Metropolitan Museum of Art” published by Mobius: The Journal for Social Change in 2010. Bottom line: very grateful for my museum memories and for my decision to leave to become a teacher. I was very tempted to stay put there working towards retirement. No doubt I took the road less traveled. Now here it is 2021 and the future looks as strange and unpredictable as ever. Thinking it a good idea to hold tight, squeeze the day as much as possible, and wish for good luck. There should be no shortage of new poetry material: may even post some of it here.
New York City Armor
We pour our flesh in it to leave home most days now,
Place head, heart, & genitals behind stiff chain mail,
Real as any medieval cast iron breastplates or helmets,
souls glimpsing our strange world through visor slits.
Tired Knights, footmen, to less we take to the streets,
Bound for work like millions before & unborn millions,
Armor hiding stitched wounds from each other’s eyes.
Death is dreamt away & all thoughts of enslavement
Worming our ears drive us forward over the weak ill-
Suited. Shoulder to shoulder we clatter & clank to line
subway trains snaking thru Armageddon tunneling
only to set up in cubicles like sentries on The Watch.
If, by chance, one begins deconstructing themselves…
Halt! Who goes there! But down your weapon & kneel!
Recruitment in The Dark Gallery
This painting calls me in for more
of thunderous blasts and clouds of smoke.
mark their road back home.
A ghostly form appears;
its burning core illuminates
the dead then disappears.
This landscape draws me in
From in this gilded frame
the screams of war blow out!
in this corridor hang in the air.
And there again! —
that hungry voice!
Your home is here
my boy, with us.
Another shouts to charge ahead
beneath red roars of cannons set
by demons laughing in the rear!
Tonight, these figures claw at me
Why? They see I stand here day to night
within this corridor…have learned to
breathe in air that smells of gutted deer…
that I am close enough…that I am set.
Oh no, come much closer tonight old-world sentinel. We
have your back. Leave that wooden floor, that pedestal,
lay down your shield and spear. You are a fixture there
for nothing more than gawkers. You are archaic, obsolete,
an hour from replacement. Find here instead the weaponry
the grandest wars are made of; in us you have the greatest
force on earth; we know the enemy on sight; we strike first!
Would we ask you otherwise to join us? You are a slave!
We are men for men. Let us arm you; make you young again;
give you a reason for breathing; and a home. Join us: serve.