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Fall 2012

Ming

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That’s why we don’t keep things in stairwells.
—Mary Warnement, The Boston Athenaeum

When the former curator remembers the Ming,
remembers knocking it over, he remarks, “The thing

took fucking forever to fall.” Shaking
his heavy head. Inside, the Ming’s still taking

its time. Still falling. Look: he opened the magic door,
invented a way of making more

time. All of us always longing for longer, a few extra hot
days in July, sunshine, more time with the kids. Not

this endless loop, cringing eternity, fucking forever in the poor
guy’s vase-sized head. Scott asks if I’d be twenty again. Not for

all the money in the world
. But then I sort of take
it back, bargain: would I for sure meet Josey? Could I bank

the money I did not give back to the world—just Jeter’s share,
net worth of the board of Goldman Sachs—relive those years

and then have the rest of my life with her, her and fewer
jobs? A car, dishwasher, dryer. New roof, newer

shoes, Josey’s never-swollen one-shift-a-week knees.
Go back to twenty, to the instant the Ming first leans

into thinner air. This vase makes it through Bruegel,
the new world, microscopes. From bustles to Google

to finally fall. But not finally anything: always it slips
from a half-hearted shelf, fresh from its crated straw, his fingertips

always in reach. You gain a week, say, week of replay, your fault
in the space time continuum, week of stutter and halt

taken back in slivers of seconds, in panicked gasps, sleep rent
again. You gain a week. This is how it’s spent.



—Jill McDonough



Jill McDonough teaches at UMass-Boston and directs 24PearlStreet, an online writing program. Her second book of poems, Where You Live, is just out.
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