Forget The Museum of Natural History,
The Metropolitan or The Smithsonian.
The collection I want to wander in
I call the Valhalla of Lost Things.
The Venus de Milo’s arms are here,
she’s grown quite attached to them.
I circle Leonardo’s sixteen-foot-tall
equestrian statue, never cast, browse
all five-hundred-thousand volumes
of The Alexandrian Library, handle
artifacts of Atlantis. Here are all
the ballades and rondeaux of Villon,
the finished score of The Unfinished
Symphony, I read all of Edwin Drood
and Answered Prayers. I’ll screen ten
missing reels of Von Stroheim’s Greed,
hear the famous gap in Nixon’s tapes.
There are lost things here so lost,
no one knows they were lost—manuscripts
by the unknown Kafka, far greater
than Kafka’s; his best friend obeyed,
shredded every sheet. The cure for cancer
is here: The inventor didn’t recognize,
the potion went unpatented . . .
In my museum no guard shushes me
for talking, there are no closing times,
it’s always free. Here I can see
what no one living has seen, I satisy
that within me which is not whole.
Here I am curator not of what is,
but of what should have been,
and what should be.
what have you lost?
Poems selected by Naomi Shihab Nye