Progress by Francis Scarfe

See that satan pollarding a tree,
That geometric man straightening a road:
Surely such passions are perverse and odd
That violate windows and set the north wind free.

No doubt tomorrow the world will be too straight.
Five hundred miles an hour will churn our dreams
Like surprised whales, when we lie a dead weight
In an ignorant sleep, and things will be what they seem.

Tomorrow we will hear on the gramophone
The music of the Spheres, registered H.M.V.
By a divorced contralto: we shall perhaps
Meet Adam under glass in a museum
Fleshless and most unlovely, complete with pedigree.

Or else, tomorrow, workers, kings and crooks
Will all have aeroplanes and be fast friends,
In a world no longer divided by dividends,
Where love will be almost as simple as it looks.

In The British Museum – by Thomas Hardy

‘You look not quite as if you saw,
But as if you heard,
Parting your lips, and treading softly
As mouse or bird.

‘It is only the base of a pillar, they’ll tell you,
That came to us
From a far old hill men used to name
Areopagus.’

‘I know no art, and I only view
A stone from a wall,
But I am thinking that stone has echoed
The voice of Paul,

‘Paul as he stood and preached beside it
Facing the crowd,
A small gaunt figure with wasted features,
Calling out loud

‘Words that in all their intimate accents
Pattered upon
That marble front, and were far reflected,
And then were gone.

‘I’m a labouring man, and know but little,
Or nothing at all;
But I can’t help thinking that stone once echoed
The voice of Paul.’

The Museum by Yves Bonnefoy

A clamor, in the distance. A crowd running under the rain beating
down, between the canvases the sea wind set clattering.

A man passes crying something. What is he saying? What he
knows! What he has seen! I make out his words. Ah, I almost
understand!

I took refuge in a museum. Outside the great wind mixed with
water reigns alone from now on, shaking the glass panes.

In each painting, I think, it’s as if  God were giving up on finishing
the world.

Translated by Mary Ann Caws

Museum by Keith Leonard

I walked the three floors
of the local antique store
and imagined white plaques
adorning each room
—but unlike museums
I could touch the displays,
and could take a seat
at a beautiful walnut table—
I could wonder about the moment
its palm-stained patina
went from simply dirty
to expensively antique—that
singular moment the thing
became slightly more
than a thing by simply
continuing to be
the very same thing—all its cracks
thick as the edge of a quarter—
all its smoothed over corners—
all its dark knots flourishing—
and I thought I could live
for awhile in this very
same body—and did, somehow,
and was loved, somehow,
into a third body, which totters
across the living room,
and whose knees I kiss
when he stumbles,
and the difference between
just now and not
is an aperture’s quick snap—
is breath-delicate—
it must have been Luck
—I see it—that saddled me,
the blind horse rising
and falling as the carnival
blared from the brass pipes,
as the carousel twirled
its crown of lights,
and one by one the bulbs
went dark—and so it is,
this life—this goddamn
lucky life—the organ
sounding off the melody,
the platform winding down,
and the horses still bounding.