To the Letter of Her Wishes
On March 18, 1990 thirteen works of art
were stolen from Boston’s Isabella Stuart
Gardner Museum. They have never been found.
Not one thing, ever to be moved,
let alone removed, from the place
she’d chosen for it—the bequest
of her home at the outer edge
of the city so specified.
Twice over, her outrageousness:
first, a Venetian palazzo
built on reclaimed marshland for her
art collection and second, not
one piece to be moved from the room,
the wall, the stand, the pedestal,
the glass-front cabinet, the shelf
where she’d set it. And a third way
she would get the gossips going:
married, yet flirting openly
with John Singer Sargent, Whistler,
Henry James. Openly flaunting
customs thought priceless as her art.
Among the 1990 trove:
Storm on the Sea of Galilee
by Rembrandt and Vermeer’s Concert,
studies by Manet and Degas.
The heist, not some hasty smash and
grab but selective: thirteen works
on a list. Others think the heist
showed no understanding of art
history, the more valuable
pieces by Michelangelo,
Botticelli, and Titian left
behind. The museum today
honoring her bequest’s wording.
Each original frame still hangs
where she’d had it hung and within
its empty space, a small photo
of what was not to be moved. Ever.
Ode to Seamus Heaney’s “Postscript”
And some time make the time, your instruction
itself revelatory, the poem’s first word “and”
as if at the end of a list. Right, a postscript.
As if you’d thought about this for some time,
wanting us, your readers, first things first, to cross
to the other side of the country, county, town,
or just our yard, to find ourselves on the pathways
of crosswise winds. Fall, the best time, migratory
skeins and hosts and bevies arriving overhead,
surely in the land of Yeats, lamentations
of swans, so that even the locks on our hearts
cannot stay locked as the luminous comes at us
from the world beyond this one and lifts us
into chimes and charms and exaltations.
creating in the round.
Madame coming into view,
in vogue, but likewise her every
leaving. Pleats, half-belts on
jacket backs, backs of
keep all eyes on
her as she leaves
the scene. Last
look at this
A pause, a pose,
then turn to next
now all about the wide:
lapels, collars, cuffs, culottes,
wide-legged slacks wider yet.
That is, till fitted tight: skinny
jeans, pencil skirts. A pause,
a pose, then turn, subtle
shift to flapper. Cape
flipped to bolero
jacket or vice
versa, the already-
seen, soon dated,
vintage. But then
Moira Linehan is the author of four collections of poetry. Her first, If No Moon, won the 2006 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry open competition and was published the following year by Southern Illinois University Press. That press published her second, Incarnate Grace, in 2015. Both books were named Honor Books in Poetry in the Massachusetts Book Awards. She had two collections come out in 2020: Toward (Slant Books) and & Company (Dos Madres Press). Linehan has had work published previously in the Innisfree Poetry Journal.
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