Politics and Quality

Only if it never breaks.


I never bought the little bamboo bird whistle
with the piston thingy
that made a resounding warble.
From that young German woman by the Thames
parading her whistles
outside the New Tate Modern.
It had all the appearance of fragility
and I didn't need the worry.
I said "only if it never breaks".

Inside the museum, Turbine Hall,
Anish Kapoor's three-story-tall thing
of red rubbery sails
makes a large impression.
On the upper floors there's lots to see.
All for a free admission.
And there are the guards
guarding art.

That one in the room
I wonder
does she say hello first thing
to the life size photo of the nude?
The artist posing in his every hair
pore naked inside his frame
and a very high resolution
gilding his privates in money
the kind my boyfriend admires.

If only everything were so simple
I smile slighter
than Anish Kapoor.
Never having built anything grand
apart from a birdhouse of popsicle sticks
with my dad. Somewhere
I'm on a list of ones who can't?

...Now...if I were her I'd do everything I do now
except I'd do it sitting down or standing up.
I'd look at my shoes and find them shiny
my trousers lint free
I'd see the crease and see it slightly crooked
and I'd long for a nice cup of tea.
And maybe a biscuit.

I might memorize the lists of art
improving my memory daily.
Not daydreaming
which easily turns to disaster
(visualizing I suppose is not good either).
Though now and then
in an empty room
I play

in which I dig a hole and bury
the huge frame full of staked butterflies
whose death flutter I feel in my stomach,
their pins and needles in my feet.
For though a clever optical illusion
of dots
at a distance
just three words:
what isn't?

. . . Now and then
I have to ask the children not to run
shout or sing or trace or do rubbings.
Though it's the adults that mostly want to touch
a list of things that
in fact
do not belong to them.
I prefer giving directions.

. . . When a tramp comes in I let him sit.
Unless he's singing or swearing
then I get help.
If he's sleeping
I try not to wake him
unless he's snoring.

. . . then. . . sometimes. . . I'd hear the whistling
through the windows.
She's in every window overlooking the Thames
and its steel arches.
Passing up and down
up and down
in a gentle rain.

I wonder what her lists are like.
Stepping lighter
less a watch to ground her?
I wonder when she pumps that piston
does she ever think combustion. . . that's an ironic thought that...
if she cares for very big things?
She's so small down there
she might be lost.