Five Thoughts I Had at the Museum


I find a wide dim room of medieval
illuminated manuscripts, so called.
Illuminated by a single lamp,
looking like beacons
glowing through a dark age.


Oil money bought all this
history here and built
these buildings around it.

Millenias’ old black liquid dinosaurs
without which there would be fewer
fortunes in the world. Nor any of these buildings.
Nor this city that spreads like strawberry runners
rendered through the natural canyons in the hills.


An episode from the Getty family history:
In 1973 a grandson kidnapped in Italy.
An ear arrives in the mail.
Getty again defers.
The IRS has rules about these things.


All this bought by business,
all this art by oil.
Dead painters had patrons.
They gave us these places.
Who are the patrons now,
while painters starve?
And so do the rest of us. How much
can our skinny shoulders prop up?


Manuscript parchment made from animal skins
soaked in lime water to loosen hair and flesh,
stretched and scraped and stretched and cut:
old books that once breathed.