It’s true, my Egyptian art museum docent,
a baby changes
one hundred times the first year—
the itching of infant skin,
I Ching of small change and key chains
that draw her infant eyes
like flecks of fire. No changeling she, she devotedly shreds
the cords of her voice when we change her
born between Shakespeare and Milton,
we wind and bind to shield the world
from our execrations.
When the museum closes
for repairs, it’s to protect
the thin skin of pigmented oils
on rough cotton canvas
a desperate mother could have
used in the shadow
of a pyramid,
or in a hut near Arles, to wrap her infant’s
From diasporum, “very white,”
not diaspora—it covers the flesh
of this absurd, shitting, sweet
even to hold up her holy head.
Philip Metres has written numerous books, including Shrapnel Maps (Copper Canyon, 2020). Winner of Guggenheim, Lannan, and NEA fellowships, he is professor of English and director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University, and core faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA.