Patrimony

Enoch gripped his arm again…He pointed down through the trees. “Muvseevum,” he said. The strange word made him shiver. That was the first time he had ever said it aloud. A piece of grey building was showing where he pointed…A concrete band was over the columns and the letters, MVSEVM, were cut into it. Enoch was afraid to pronounce the word again.
                                                      (Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor)

Our artifacts
have been stolen,

locked
in the MVSEVM.

We fear
even the word.

(What if
we mispronounce it

as it glares
above tall columns?)

We need permission
to enter,

following cowed
behind a docent

who tells us
what each thing means,

estranged in its case.
Attribution, period,

school, circa,
all encrypted,

made so alien
that, exiting,

we shiver
at the chill.

Devon Balwit is a teacher and writer working in Portland, OR. She has two chapbooks forthcoming in 2017: how the blessed travel, from Maverick Duck Press, and Forms Most Marvelous, from dancing girl press. Her recent work has found many homes, among them: The Cincinnati Review, Red Earth Review, Noble / Gas Qtrly, Peacock Journal, Sweet, The Stillwater Review, Oyez ReviewThe Timberline Review, Poets Reading The News, The New Verse News, and Kindred.

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