Installing Ourselves in the Memory Museum

Two poems by William Albert Pagdatoon

Installing Ourselves in the Memory Museum

The Museum Was Built So No One Would Forget . . .

us, pottery fragments once  
dusted in warm sand—jagged,  

mismatched—today, preserved  
in glass. it began to rain while we  

walked from the bar, so we came  
here, listening to artifacts speak about  

their hieroglyphs, even after we learned
the paintings we wanted to see were  

switched out before morning arrived. yet
we wander through modernism and  

antiquity, stopping to see a vase or shield, the
faces of those bending down on the other  

side of the case. one of them reminds me
of him, you say, which is the complete  

antithesis of today’s adventure—it’s to forget,
you emphasized during our second round of  

drinks. come here, taking your hand, dull
blade of a jackknife. and we pause by a 

sculpture of a green balloon dog.  
there are no security guards lurking or  

barricades surrounding the mantle.  
push it. you’re crazy. imagine  

it’s from him, make it appear like an  
accident. you roll your eyes, but lift your  

hand, pausing by the nose, arm  
trembling, ready to spread  

god’s fingerprints with  
one small shove.

Desaparecidos (or, Memorializing Absence, Remembering the Disappeared)

installation: sculptures

see who’s next to be concealed in harsh  
twilight. stand behind statues, peephole  
through gaping exit wounds. yesterday’s  
papers flutter with mosquitos. go: crumple 

headlines together. deprived of liberty via  
a breeze and years of futile searching for the  
deafening muffle of a rooster crowing. let them 
call for those kissing palm leaves over  

mouths, the forcibly taken and disappeared, 
watch as the flecks of embers in a field of  
sampaguitas ablaze subsist through 
crush-glass rain. name, picture, remembrance. 

the disappeared are not dead, but immaterial with 
stiff heads, necks, limbs, ab- away, esse- to be 
in rigor mortis—the bodies’ event horizon—for 
absence remains: open wound, festering in 

hectares, eyes scalloped out, sockets blackened  
inkblots. watch them hold gifts, hands gripping 
golden frames which contain no archipelagoes or  
portraits, but recesses. think: deserted mirrors,  

barren caesarean, flesh turned nuclear winter. 
child wearing overalls, student in cap and  
gown, nun’s mouth calcified shut, old  
man, old woman, snuffed out by candlelight.

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