The National Museum of Brazil, September 2, 2018

There it goes. All of it.

Flames up and out, the roof

gone, history in ash.

An unquantifiable loss for

Brazil, for all of us,

and a reminder of our

total impermanence. I

don’t know what was lost.

It’s not a museum

I’ve ever visited.

Some bones, paintings, documents.

Proof of one thing

or another. Whatever

was stored there

is lost now forever.

And the paintings stolen

from the Isabella Stewart

Gardner museum—also gone,

perhaps destroyed, only

their empty frames

remain. The statues of Buddha

destroyed by the Taliban?

The books burned by Nazis

or marauding Vikings?

That painting your daughter

did in 3rd grade that you

accidentally dropped into

the recycling? You think

any art is safe? The universe

doesn’t need the Mona Lisa

or Declaration of Independence.

Even if those items last

ten million years, that’s

chump change to the universe.

The universe laughs

at ten million years.

Kid, I do ten million years

before I get up in the morning.

The universe does not

care what we preserve in

our wooden buildings.

That cold, infinite emptiness

is a cold, infinite emptiness.

So, there it goes.

All of it. The noise

of the loss is a vibration

(the bones, the documents,

all fuel, all gone,

no mercy, no farewell)

but heartache is brief.

I’m not saying you

should stow your

grief. I’m saying your

grief, no matter how wide

or deep, is temporary.

When the cold and infinite

emptiness comes calling,

the only human


is to



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