Anney E. J. Ryan

The Napoleon Exhibit

I took off work for it,
With visions of Wordsworth and Coleridge and
Byron dancing through my head,
But found only a dunce cap,
A poster from the revolution.

My boyfriend was at home, working on his screenplay and smoking weed.

But that was all of the truth, really;
Napoleon exhibited only
High fashion - office and bedroom sets,
Toile and animal-footed furniture,
A carpet of red and gold leaves
Embossing a gigantic letter N.

There was nothing so regal lying in my apartment, twenty blocks away.

I tried to disappear into
The tables and chairs and rugs,
But two grandmothers wandered in front of me,
Gasping at the craftsmanship, asking
Each other about their daughters and
How this wasn’t so boring after all.

I made my fingers like a gun at their backs and pretended to shoot them.

At Josephine’s dressing table,
I stopped. In her mirror,
I looked at myself,
Dressed in last year’s haircut and
A scarf from the United Way, I realized
This mirror held the secret history of Napoleon’s bedroom.

How many days and nights did Josephine stare at herself in this same mirror?

I imagined her rinsing her mouth in the basin,
I imagined her looking into the water,
Rimmed with the foam of never-successors.
I imagined, like me,
She spit.

The grossest thoughts always come to me when bombarded with ostentatious things.

Josephine’s mirror, a time machine,
Captured her world and captured mine,
A painting of constant changing.
Me and the grandmothers,
Polite with our silence,
For a minute, we gazed in.


All the best love stories are grown on trees.
At dusk, sun and moon punch each other out,
Battle for sky, turn it into a bruise.

Chin, on the windowsill, my eyes harken;
The line of tangled trees show Rhett Butler
Dipping Scarlett O’Hara for a kiss.

A summer wind stirs. A bird jumps and lifts
Off Scarlett’s shoulder and into the sky.
Its wings flap hard. Its body catches light.

I can see its muscles throbbing inside
Its body. Flying is hard, I think.
Can a bird relax, smile, and enjoy it?

I am nine and have moved to the country.
So everything that happens to me
Means that I am destined for enormity.

I study the cut of a leaf against the sky.
I think that nature speaks to me.
I whisper back, into the screen: Someday.

1 comment:

  1. The women in Anney E. J. Ryan’s brilliant THE NAPOLEON EXHIBIT are descended from Eliot’s women coming and going speaking not of Michelangelo but rather the quotidian stuff of grandmotherhood, the stuff of their lives woven into their own tattered arrases, a brilliant tapestry which Ryan has created and allows us to gaze in.


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