Your Forgery Shop


You’ve opened a forgery shop

in Harvard Square. You offer

fake passports, green cards, birth

certificates, Rembrandt and Monet

paintings, Shakespeare manuscripts,

anything the cold heart desires.

I could order the lost poems

of Sappho, a codex of Homer,

a sketch by Michelangelo.

Your prices seem reasonable.

But I remember when you tried

to forge a marriage between us,

faking even the shyest gesture.

I wasn’t fooled. Who’d believe

that the quarto of Hamlet spat

from your four-dimensional printer

is authentic? Across the street

in the brick college buildings

scholars gnash and grind over texts

or peer into ancient drawings

to illuminate the world and self.

Meanwhile two thousand miles south,

at the notorious border,

gaunt refugees gather in hope

of green cards permitting them new

and almost survivable lives.

You can’t fake scholarly effort

or the grief of cultural shock.

Maybe I’ll buy something modest,

like a letter from Catullus

to one of his dissolute friends.

But I’m not sure I should encourage

such a wanton enterprise,

even if the light in your eye blinds

the most scrupulous curator

of genuine human debris.

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