Moira Linehan




Griefs Library
In a library . . . commitment
to findability is absolute.

          —Susan Orlean, The Library Book

It all comes down to place, one place and only
one place on the shelf. Grief shelved me on the one
where my mother’s leaving left me. She, the book
that should be next to me. Book I love, I know
so many lines by heart. Book, never returned.
Next to me, a gap I lean into. Empty
frames hang in a museum in my city.
Those frames keep the public’s eye on paintings
thieves stole decades ago. They’ve never been found.
The public still pays to view the missing. One place,
only one place my mother could be. And she is not.


To Sister Aloysius

I was trying to keep the grammar straight,
the gender of vocabulary I’d memorized
in your class. Museums in and of themselves
exhaust me and having to translate titles
and notes on top of jet-lag—well, not much
was left in my tank. By the time I reached
the last gallery, the needle was on E.
That’s how the title, the elementary
title, stopped me: Une Mère et Son Enfant.
The enfant, a little girl, turquoise blue dress,
in a boat with her mother. The note instructed
to notice Cassatt’s work, how vaporeux
their dresses yet how solid their bodies.
What I notice is the masculine son with enfant,
so turn to the guard seated nearby to ask
why son as I point to the daughter. The guard
rises into perfect posture, tilts her head back
and says, Madame, en France enfant can be fille
ou fils
, and since enfant could be un garçon,
then en France, Madame, enfant must be male.
She nods her head to punctuate her answer,
then winks at me and laughs. Sister, trust me,
this woman has given this speech before.



Moira Linehan is the author of If No Moon and Incarnate Grace, both from Southern Illinois University Press. Her third collection of poems is Toward (Slant Books, June 2020). Her fourth collection, & Company, is forthcoming from Dos Madres Press. She lives in the greater Boston area and is a past contributor to the Innisfree Poetry Journal








                                    

 

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