Six Inches

''You probably weren't aware. The museum

has a six-inch rule. You must keep your hands

at least six inches

away from the paintings.''

I was raised better.

''Behind your back,'' Mother had said.

Pass through but don't touch.

Try to make things last.

In the basilica in Rome

St. Peter's foot is wearing away

year after year,

kissed by the faithful.

In the Smithsonian

the dimmest touch of light

is fading the gowns

of the presidents' wives.

Six inches or not, everything is

eventually worn away. Museums cannot

keep forever, and that which is

from everlasting to everlasting

is closer than six inches,

closer than hands and feet.

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