Monday, May 24, 2010

The Museum - Sandra Hochman

Sandra Hochman (1936 -  ) is of the same first-generation of feminist poets as Plath and Sexton, though the youngest of the three by a few years.  Unlike them, the pressures, expectations, and angst didn't lead to suicide but to a career that has included numerous awards (though not the most prestigious ones) and creative output in the form of novels, essays, journalistic pieces, and one amazing documentary film that may finally be distributed after sitting on the shelf for 30 years.  (Click here to read more about it and her.)  She hasn't published poetry since the early 80s, focusing instead on the other outlets.  This poem comes from the 1960s, the seminal decade of societal change.  Who of us has not walked through a museum with a love interest?  There's something heady and electric being surrounded by all that beauty on display, something that heightens how we feel, think, and behave toward the person with us.  It's catnip to our senses: it makes us try to be wittier, more observant and reflective, to show our soul out loud even as our thoughts are really about what we would really like to be doing with him/her, as the museum acts like an aphrodisiac..... And Hochman captures that common experience.  
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The Museum

In the feathery museum –

Marriage bonds like silky ribbons snap. You’re on
Your own. Over the staircase,
Over the widening stairs,

Climbing and entering.
We walk around –
I hear my clicking on the floor. We
stare at the statues – Imperial Chinese Ladies
Stuffed in glass cases smile behind white porcelain frowns –
Walking down hallways – classic vases
Robust under glass – miles away from Greece –
And bronze statues dancing – here are the Degas nudes –
You say they look like me – all twirling around
And we are walking down toward the Rembrandt room.

We stare at those eyes. At the impossible mouths
Almost about to speak and tell me some secret:
You say, “They are all close to death” – no, closer to sleep,
All of the portraits just about to snooze.
I want to lie down with you,
Discovering your limbs softly with my hands
As though you were also
A trip through an unknown museum –
In a long sleep of teeth and lips
I would kiss you so many times
As you come to life in my arms.

                                                                                        Sandra Hochman - American

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