On the third wide floor of the museum
You can travel between treasures gathered
In centuries’ collection of the past –
A past of narrow stories intertwined –
That’s what the glass says, and the little signs
Ruled on white Perspex, all best guesses,
Estimations – archaeological –
Risky historical reputations.
But looking in the glass I can still see
Fingerprints in a stoneware pot, once hid,
Then found, no framed and famous, full of wealth.
The massed carnelian lozenges with birds
And simple beaten snake-head bracelets, rings,
The taciturn quartz, hard and sworn silent,
Collected silver profiles destined soon
To soften, stick, unpiece and glue, adhere,
The swallow in themselves the featured fair,
Becoming blank, upon which expression
Can be new-shaped a decorated face.
All interrupted by a sudden threat
That prompted careful choosing of this vase
And surely careful memory’s searchings
For a place in the crook of an ash tree
By a bed in a brook by the long field
Where a treasure can lie in secrecy.
To try to put a glass between ourselves –
Me and this distant woman or man –
Is no more possible than to part
Two melted coins, two rust-fused swords or rings,
And all the people making all these toys
Are like the massy links in one colossal
Tunic of chainmail, which the earth unites
By giving up its moisture, making rust
That freezes pliable metal and dust.