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Sonia Greenfield

Museum of Extinct Peoples

I heard great things
about the Caucasian wing
from a descendant, so I had
to go. An interactive exhibit
let me handle objects like
Scrunchies, which were used
to bundle hair, or the lacrosse stick
which was a net at the end
of a long pole used in games
where pale men tried to prove
their mettle. I got to try
something called scrapbooking
and I learned whole stores
were dedicated to this art
primarily practiced by female elders
who created false documents meant
to obscure their children’s failings.
One diorama held a wax family
in stasis at the dinner table:
a small, well-dressed nuclear unit
eating food cooked in a wok
crude tools called chopsticks pinching
at noodles on their plates.
The plaque beside the exhibit
told how these tools didn’t originate
with white people, but they used them
to appear tolerant of other cultures,
this ruse so deep they forgot to stop
once behind the locked doors
of their tidy houses. As I was
getting ready to leave I realized
that curators had scented the air
near the exit with fear. I could
hear it wheeze through the ducting,
the hair on my arms
lifting up as if to listen.

Museum of God

After The Trial, The Empirical Evidence,
after The Pope’s Demise, The Triumph
of Science, after The Islamic Purge, after
full school buses were swept out to sea
by The Tsunami of ‘68, a museum was built
in the middle of the old Bible Belt
though upon ribbon-cutting was shattered
by a supercell whose funnel scattered
golden icons of The Virgin across the plains,
whose rage ripped relics from the walls
and whose funnel sucked finger fragments
of martyrs up to the electrified cumulonimbus.
In the aftermath, curators shook their heads
as they gathered pieces from Nur-Astana
which had been shipped piece-by-piece
from Afghanistan and reassembled for
patrons. A great sandstone statue of Ganesha
lay plunked down in the middle of a cow pasture.
Pages from an ancient Talmud swirled
in the prairie wind like birds scattering
to the sparse trees. New ground had been broken
in Paris, though the first pillars of foundation
were swallowed by a surprise sinkhole
never seen in the vicinity before. Now rain
gathers in over-stuffed clouds but refuses
to precipitate, though sometimes a knuckle
of bone drops from above and clatters
on the basilica’s deserted courtyard.

Museum of the Beloved

Most exhibits are free to move about the cabin. The father, silver
at the temples built in testament to loss, in deep conversation
with the mother, graying out of existence, they tuck into
a corner of the great hall by the wing of grandfathers
where the sound of Sinatra drifts down from the
circle of discrete holes in the ceiling. A video
installation regularly resets so the wife’s one
last wave from the driver-side window
flickers again and again in home
movies while summer imprints
in the blue paint’s reflection
and the baby in her carseat
turns her head to you
and turns her head
to you and turns
her head to you
to you to

Museum of Danger

Once there, exhibits offered
many interactive testaments
to bravery and derring-do.
The only child rode the rote
movements of a mechanical
horse surrounded by desert sands
made of the softest Styrofoam.
Then he planted his feet wide
on a surfboard while a curated wave
curled around him in a perfect barrel,
the boy as safe as a soft-bodied
mollusk in its shell. A snow-sport
installation featured a black diamond
with conveyor belt that went
around so only the hill moved
beneath his skis held static
by wires and pulleys. Other wings
of the museum included fabricated
motorcycle rides and hikes through
scaled-down Sierras. On the drive
home a small smile set his face
right. Then the boy caught
his mother’s eye in her rearview
and said Oh mama, we must
go back. It was all
so life-like.

➥ Bio