by Robert Phillips
Forget the Museum of Natural History,
The Metropolitan or The Smithsonian.
The collection I want to wander in
I call The Valhalla of Lost Things.
The Venus de Milo’s arms are here,
she’s grown quite attached to them.
I circle Leonardo’s sixteen-foot-tall
equestrian statue, never cast, browse
all five-hundred-thousand volumes
of The Alexandrian Library, handle
artifacts of Atlantis. Here are all
the ballades and rondeaux of Villon,
the finished score of The Unfinished
Symphony, I read all of Edwin Drood
and Answered Prayers. I’ll screen ten
missing reels of Von Stroheim’s Greed,
hear the famous gap in Nixon’s tapes.
There are lost things here so lost,
no one knows they were lost — manuscripts
by the unknown Kafka, far greater
than Kafka’s, his best friend obeyed,
shredded every sheet. The cure for cancer
is here: The inventor didn’t recognize,
the potion went unpatented . . .
In my museum no guard shushes me
for talking, there are no closing times,
it’s always free. Here I can see
what no one living has seen, I satisfy
that within me which is not whole.
Here I am curator not of what is,
but of what should have been,
and what should be.
Phillips’s poem appears in Naomi Shihab Nye’s anthology, What Have You Lost? In her introduction, she says, “Maybe the reason we talk about our petty losses with such energy is that there are so many inevitable larger ones that can never be redeemed or reclaimed. The people. The eras of our lives.”
She cites a favorite lavender-scented neck pillow she left on an airplane, a burgundy velvet pouch of lost teeth she treasured as a ten-year-old, the many friends she gained, then lost, during her teens while attending three different high schools.
What have I lost?
My bridal veil, which somehow “disappeared” in London when we moved to a new flat. It came with what I like to call a “Juliet” lace cap, and I had stashed it in a shopping bag, as one does, when storage space is limited to a small wooden wardrobe you share with your husband.
In the rush of moving, I must have thrown out that shopping bag along with others I’d been saving. I’m still kicking myself over being careless (and apparently overly efficient). I still have my wedding dress, but no veil. After a few years passed, I reconciled the loss by thinking it happened on purpose. England is where I’ll always long to be (my heart home), so it’s only fitting that a part of me will always be there.
Like Robert Phillips, I’ve often imagined a land of lost things and what I would find there. Maybe it would range from small, inconsequential items like a missing sock or earring, to irreplaceable, elusive things like childhood innocence and trust, good dreams, the idealism of your college years, sleep, the lottery, memories you have no idea you had lost.
Things we should never lose:
Okay to lose:
Sense of Entitlement
Things we occasionally lose, but regain:
Train of Thought
It’s fun to ponder, in any case.
What have you lost?
Check out the Poetry Friday Roundup at Michelle Kogan’s blog, always a welcoming spot featuring gorgeous art and inspiring words. There you’ll find the full menu of poetic goodness being shared around the blogosphere this week. Happy Weekend!
Copyright © 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.