Samantha Pious

Midnight at the Musée d’Orsay

On the northern wall in the great hall
the gilt clock sounds .xii. chimes. A bronze lion
flexes, stretches his jaws in a silent roar
or yawn and leaps from his pedestal
to prowl the underground corridors
and restrooms. (If, next morning, one
of the security guards boasts of intruding gangs,
shows off the scratch marks on his bandaged arm,
the others will shrug, chalk it up to drugs,
and the boss will quietly arrange for his
transfer to the Hôtel des Invalides.)
Meanwhile, the busts of Virgil and Dante
continue their endless debate. A curve of light
skims past the statue of a shepherd girl,
who leaps to her feet in search of sword and banner
to become Joan of Arc. The clock slows.
Sappho stands, brushing dust from her lyre,
and in an instant she and the naked Eurydice
have joined hands and run upstairs
toward a sinuous Art-Nouveau bedframe,
where one of the curators has thoughtfully installed
a sturdy mattress. Lady Liberty,
night watchwoman, take off your robe and crown,
for once lay down that blessed ledger-book,
and, torch raised higher than the morning sun,
prolong the night!

Samantha Pious is the translator of A Crown of Violets: Selected Poems of Renée Vivien (Headmistress Press, 2017). Some of her translations and poems have appeared in Adrienne, Doublespeak, Lavender Review, Mezzo Cammin, and other publications.