The Museum of Might-Have-Been

By Anne-Marie Fyfe

Featured Art: Art Institute of Chicago by Thomas Struth

Opens its doors one Sunday a month
in winter. The queues back up for decades.

If you’re lucky and your number’s called
you can have any tour: Your Charmed Life,
Your Regrets, The Prodigal You, every second
slip-road at the intersections of the possible.

The exhibits are stark and infinite
under strip neon, long hallways
of lost opportunity, slow clocks,
stopped clocks, rooms where even now
a thought might wither: the attic storeroom
is out-of-bounds to all but the curators,
though artifacts are still donated by the hour.

Standing in line is no guarantee
of admission: some days
word spreads that when you
reach the queue’s head, pass through
the double doors, it’ll be stripped out,
even lightbulbs, with only packing materials
and discarded drapes left. Yet critics insist
The Multiple-Choice Foyer, The Roads-Not-Taken
Gallery, The Back Burner Café
are stunning.

Every room’s a tasteful shade of apple-white
apparently. Waxworks and living statues
rehearse at intervals for The Balcony Scene,
The Shining City, The Reconciliation
, over
and over, night by night. As in the finest operas.

Anne-Marie Fyfe, an Irish poet now living in London, has four collections of poetry including Understudies: New and Selected Poems (Seren Books, 2010); has won the Academi Cardiff International Poetry Prize; has run Coffee-House Poetry’s readings and workshops at London’s Troubadour since 1997, organizes the annual Hewitt Spring Festival in the Glens of Antrim, and was chair of the UK-wide Poetry Society from 2006-2009. Her fifth collection No Second Acts is due from Seren Books in 2015.

Originally published in NOR 15

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