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Long Beach, CA

A Falling Clod of Dust, in the Reijksmuseum

Everyone standing before The Night Watchgot their phone out to take pictures
(What a world we now have)
As if to prove that they were here
I guess it was just too much to be there 
And we all needed something else to do

When suddenly—because everything is sudden, from a certain point of view—
A piece of dust fell from the top of the frame and began a long, slow promenade
There was the holiest hum as it hung before the throngs and made its way, inexorably down,
Yes, the holy murmur of the crowd gazing at the light on those staid faces, looking every which way, as if they surveyed us,
Did not falter, nor those painted faces blink at the dust

I almost turned to the person next to me, as if I’d say, “My God, and we were here for it”
Before realizing: it was just dust
And at least once a week or month some such thing must happen 
The accumulation too much, it rolls off, a glad clod, 
It touches holy ground

At length, as I walked away from that glad gallery, a young woman—I was young like her once—said, “That is so cool”
(The painting, not the dust)
And indeed it was
The light of that magical canvas its own symphony, sad, stark, serene

In the next room was a painting far less grand that I liked almost as much
A drunken man
A festooned merchant with scabbard in a golden band
A mendicant friar somehow playing poker
And a man’s hand, desperately copping a feel of his girlfriend’s breast
It seemed more true, or just as much
As The Night Watch 
More, for that matter, like the dust

Despite all the light we crave, you end up playing a sighing game of poker on a hazy afternoon
And it all goes so fast, this life, and our golden aspirations for light 
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust
At least we will all have so many pictures to remind us
That we were there
And we will recall, perhaps, how hard it was to stand in holy light 
As we will—on that gray morning—purse our lips and nod our heads
And see at last just how truly grand it all was 

For more poetry, click here.