Aftermath at the Museum with Fragments of Sappho
BY TARA DEAL
Yellow notes, cold coffee, scattered reservations. Pray, make arrangements. I’ll meet you there. But do you think a museum is right? It might be difficult. Low light, like a grotto. Do not touch. We’ll have to talk quietly. My tongue breaks down. And it’s hard to remember/desire/decipher fragments of odd handwriting stuck together with the tiniest pieces of tape. That paper is some sort of fabric. No one is paying attention. Don’t worry. Just another exhibit. Don’t make a scene. Why did we even come here? What are you trying to prove? In the middle of summer, all afternoon. Ancient history. Pages, paintings, peeling. Things don’t mean what they used to. Gods do what they like. Do you think anyone will ever know what happened? Not enough text, too many objects. We will have to decide/divide. Split up, I mean, our souvenirs. Someone will have to move. Forge ahead. What about the gold jewelry? The Greeks used granulation techniques to create spectacular pieces. Read the writing on the wall. If ever you’ve heard my pleadings. Did you think you could create a distraction? Art + facts. Clasps and cloth. Is there a remedy for wanting to weave? I mean, leave. Wait a minute. What are you trying to do? Reveal/reread. The captions say the words. Were transcribed long after. Who knows what they were supposed to mean. What I mean is. Is it too late to move into an Italian room? Chiaroscuro, etc. But there was some water damage, ignore the cracks. The men standing guard can’t say what happened. Micro-explosions all over town. What have you done? How much time before the truth? There are so many translations. So many ceramics. Our purple vase from Venice has been shattered. One less thing, maybe. Like the wild hyacinth flower. The tourists are also struggling to see through the glass, to mind the gaps, to find them, to fill them in. Things don’t add up. Things don’t have to. No one speaks the ancient language. Do you think the old masters want to be remembered/disseminated like this? Do you? Take notes. After the art comes criticism, you know that. Fish some pages out of the trash. Pieces of love poems? I didn’t think so. That might have worked. No, I’m joking. You couldn’t have said anything. You couldn’t have stopped anyone. Too late. I mean, my coffee is cold. A bit of Parthenon on a paper cup. The café here is so old-fashioned. The food is bad. Let’s go. Think of the glamour of travel, what love, and where to go now. Retrace/reconstruct. Love for that boy. Maybe you can go back to Sifnos. White wine, blue glass, lava beads, what? I can’t go with you. Which doesn’t mean I never could. That much is true. See what you can find. Would you like to see the ruins or the islands?
TARA DEAL is the author of That Night Alive (winner of the 2016 novella prize from Miami University Press) and Palms Are Not Trees After All (winner of the 2007 novella prize from Texas Review Press). Her work has also appeared in Alimentum, failbetter, Sugar House Review, and Washington Square Review, among others. Her shortest story can be found in Hint Fiction (Norton). She lives in New York City.