Sweet Cathedral

Philip Metres

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
                                                                             diaper. Diaper,
born between Shakespeare and Milton,
                         ornamental cloth 

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 
unshuttable bum.  
            From diasporum, “very white,” 

not diaspora—it covers the flesh 
                                                   of this absurd, shitting, sweet 
cathedral unable 
                         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.

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