''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.