The David Museum
SAN FRANCISCO ZOO
I am watching David through a dirty window.
It's pouring rain, and children dash through the runoff,
a dripping curtain. Inside the carousel house
they scramble astride the animals. David circles,
aiming his camera. One girl can't decide. The carousel
begins to move and her mother plops her quickly
on an ostrich. David steps back as the enormous wheel spins
into a blur of surfaces, strings of lights, revolving
mirrors. One boy's pleading for a photo, posing
each turn: kneeling in the saddle; holding on with one arm;
head flung back; riding low off one side of his
The boy tries to stand in the saddle but the attendant,
in khakis and safari helmet, rushes up and
makes him sit.
Cheap speakers pop and shudder, blast out organ
We have changed buses four times. We have hurried
past the bears pacing outside their caves, their
wet bodies rippling. The pure swans seem oblivious,
rain, no rain, it's all the same, blinking their clear eyelids,
dipping bright beaks in the water. The carousel
David changes film, kneels beside a pair of spotted cats,
each with a fish in its mouth. This is our last
David's last birthday. We have no idea. I
will find the film
saved in a plastic bag.
Blanket chest: Shaker, Union Village, Ohio, circa
Painted grain finish. Bracket feet. Lift top. Till.
Two drawers. Pine. Hinges replaced, possibly by Shakers.
Grained finish with initials "M R" on front surface.
Red wash on drawers. Keep.
Arm chair: Shaker, Union Village, circa 1850.
Four slats. Canted back. Large finials
typical of Union Village. Turnings on front posts,
top front rail. Maple. Shellac finish. Black and blue
tape seat (replaced). Mother. Now? Or birthday?
Arm chair: Windsor. Jeffrey Fiant, 1983.
Philadelphia comb-back style. Mixed woods. Black
paint. Signed on bottom of seat. David's favorite. Like
a throne, I thought. To sit there now, old shawl about
my shoulders like some widow, sipping tea, reading.
The back's gentle give. How it held him. Keep.
Ironing chair: Shaker, Watervliet, New York, circa
Maple. Three-slat canted back. Bright
red paint with shellac. Red-and-black-stripe/black
tape seat (replaced). Black painted decoration on slats,
marked "C F" on back of top slat. Davids note:
Alfredo? I cant. I love this chair. Keep.
Side chair: Shaker, South Union, Kentucky, circa
Three graduated slats. Mule ear back posts. Maple. Simple
turnings on front posts and stretcher. Original dark
green paint. Green/black tape seat (replacedoriginal
was stuffed with straw). Jennifer and Bill. They'd like
a set of four, have offered a good price. Last month
in the garage with David's sister, who'd asked
for a rocker, I confessed: It's a strange attachment. Yes.
But not to hoard, if keeping means they fall into
David told me so, left instructions, gave me leave to save
or sell, but said to wait one year. And how long
did he work transcribing notes, dimensions, attributions,
when and where acquired, plusunbelievably
photographs of everything. Silver. Wedgwood. Pottery.
The cabinets and chairs that made this house so famous
among our friends.
But not to hoard. To use, to be of service, and
to let them go. His shoes and slacks and jackets bagged
for charity, his shirts cut up for quilts, then some of my own,
the buttons snipped and mixed in a bowl, because they were small,
easy to save, because it grew into a ritual: the collar,
then the sleeves, then last the front, the extras on the tail's
reverse. I like to sift them in my hands. I like their uniformity,
no way of knowing which plain pearls were his, which mine.
Which means that any one could be. Which makes them
something I just have to keep.
The David Museum is the winning chapbook in the
NEW MICHIGAN PRESS/DIAGRAM 2002 chapbook competition, and will be published
this summer by the New Michigan Press.
Order the chapbook from the