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A Night’s Museum

ISSUE:  Autumn 1977

for Joseph Cornell

William Blake saw an angel
sitting in a tree. Blondin crossed Niagara
on a cable. And Maria Taglioni
for a Russian highwayman
danced on a panther’s skin spread over the snow
in 1855. You place
one marble in the glass, one on the shelf
beside it. Five silver thimbles
become a forest. And from the chateau
romantic music exactly
like a dream. You said
you wanted to know somebody who had known Debussy.
“I could have spoken to him
and the chain
would have been established.”
Blondin crossed the gorge
a second time, then a third. Many still believed
it had been done with mirrors.
And Taglioni, according to the legend, kept
pieces of ice
melting among her jewels. “So much,” you said
“gets by me all the time
in trying to hold onto things.” Far above
river, fields, and frozen woods,
against the wind a heavy cable sways.
Behind it, the star charts, the histories
of the sky like
wallpaper. And this cork ball
would be the moon,
and these
are the planets on their strings.


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