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In the din of ages
so quiet only the squeak
of charcoal sneakers
and the stentorian tutelage
of living masses
with a breast exposed,
Mary drawing blood
from fingers brushing thorns—
overhead the tapestry
of knights and days—
in glass enclosed, breastplates,
armor . . .
    The old and the young
contemplate themselves
distractedly—why this
and this—not something
else?—why this standing
for man; preserved—
why does this speak
to who I am?

Only the rich of course
had these things, no?
The poor had nothing like this
in their homes, the earnest
middle-ager asks. (The art
of the poor was staying alive;
their lives enriched
by viewing their betters’
legacies, now, the wiseacre
guide replies, wisely.)

Crossbows; helmets;
chainmail. “Laban searching
for his household idols” . . .

Filipino and Chinese,
black schoolchildren
and matrons,
each one finger
of a hand reaching back
to the center of the earth floating
through the heavens.

—Jackson Holmes