03 Aug

“The Museum of Mourning” by Andy Young

has limited hours mostly
         it’s sealed shut in the shade
near the Pest House
                  where smallpox victims
                  languished on sand floors

near the Station House
                  with its steamer trunks
and little plaques of doom:
                  “found dead on Rail Road
                  3 miles from here Frozen.”

On the porch the hot wet
                  air licks you like a tongue
and there’s a miniature house
                  with a copper roof
                  for cats though none are around.

Glass display: a “cooling casket”
                  like a big picnic basket
to carry the unembalmed dead.  
                  A sign promises a “Christian
                  vault” nearby, a gift shop

with “Died and Gone to Heaven” honey
                  from white bee boxes
on the grounds where rare species  
                  of roses grow in rows
                  among the dead. 

Open the door to the Mourning Museum!
                  Let me in to weep
for everything I’ve lost and broken,
                  for every aunt, every pet,
                  for my grandfather killed

by the mines, for my nana’s
                  lost mind and the cut-down
trees of my childhood,  
                  for the sideways slits  
                  of goats’ eyes

for clusters of figs
                  and their jeweled caves,
for childhood dissipating
                  like mist from a lake.
                  Let me in

to rend my clothes,
                  to murmur like water
at its first source, to touch
                  the brooches made of hair,
                  the ink of the catalogued dead.

—Andy Young

 

ABOUT THIS POEM

Young wrote this poem after visiting Old City Cemetery in 2016 while she was a fellow in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She is the author of All Night It Is Morning (2014), and her work has appeared in numerous international publications. You can hear “The Museum of Mourning” read aloud by the author here: http://www.radarpoetry.com/museum-of-mourning

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