Poetry: Smithsonian


There is a curious exhibit in the stairwell

Of the National Museum of Natural History.

A trio of Haida and Tsimshian totem poles

Staring at visitors through three flights of steps

As they search for the toilets or the exit sign.

Orcas and wolverines peer out, red-rimmed eyes

And massive mouths, teeth like white knives,

Pupils dilated by the unseen opiates in the air

Of the polished, white, marble halls.

Something soporific in the pulse of the capital.

Gouged out of the trunk of a Western Red Cedar in the Pacific Northwest two centuries ago,

Hauled across the continent by brave pioneers, now sat between floors, off the museum map.

A great triumph of culture contained and catalogued. The real American spirit on display.

Forever consigned to the museum’s corners,

The pieces of history most eagerly walked around.

Furniture, memorabilia, oversized souvenirs,

For people heading to the gemstone exhibits.

Dan Squire

Dan has also written Syracuse Bus Terminal & Under Brooklyn Bridge.

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