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Lay for the Day
15th January

1759: the British Museum, then located in Montague House, opens its doors to the public for the first time.


Strange that classic grace should end as totems
of our own fragmentary aesthetic.
No frieze to focus nor leg to stand on,
stripped by their falling, embedded in air –

the goddess can’t flee from headless panic
through the torsos sprawled where her feet would run,
and man and man-horse combatants, sword-hands
broken off, never press home to the kill.

Hell for these heavenly lumps is the snap-
shots steady flicking at their muscled stumps.
Poor immortals, reft of the dignity
their artful servants long since claimed, of graves,

they lounge with the permanence of the damned
where a damp muse wanders in her raincoat.


John Gibbens
from Makings ’84-’88

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar