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Museum Guard
Emily Strauss


The guard in the gallery
sits on a small chair alone
watching the viewers
enter, walk the circuit,
smile or stare, linger
at one painting or move on.

Quiet again, he remains—
the silent watcher, stretches
every fifteen minutes
by his internal clock
talks to no one.

Unnoticed among the canvas
he waits for his shift to end,
waits to escape
to the chaotic streets outside—
lunch of Singapore noodles
chatter of children and vendors

smells of dried fish and mangoes
rancid breeze from the bay—
far from those colonial walls
cupping empty rooms
paintings safely hidden.
The guard yawns, bored.

Now a new group enters
chattering like hungry finches
their sudden commotion
electrifies his nerves, the sound
touches him a moment—
still life: silent guard in uniform.


© by Emily Strauss.
Used with the author’s permission.



Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. More than 450 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the U.S. and abroad. The natural world of the American West is Emily’s usual framework; she also considers the narratives of people and places around her. Emily is a retired teacher and lives in Oregon with a small dog and a black cat.




Post New Comment:
I enjoyed the detail in your poem and the contrast between the room of paintings and the outside world. The last line is my favorite still life: silent guard in uniform. I will never look at a museum guard in the same way again. Thank you, Emily.
Posted 06/23/2020 10:54 PM
What a wonderful portrait in words!
Posted 06/23/2020 03:43 PM
Sharon Waller Knutson:
I loved the contrast between the quiet museum and the noisy street and how both clash in the last stanza: Now a new group enters chattering like hungry finches their sudden commotion electrifies his nerves, the sound touches him a moment? still life: silent guard in uniform
Posted 06/23/2020 02:54 PM
Lori Levy:
Beautiful portrayal of the museum guard.
Posted 06/23/2020 02:06 PM
Jean Colonomos-1:
In 2017 in Chicago, I saw a production of Jessica Dickey's play, THE REMBRANDT. It's a masterful work about a museum guard guarding a Rembrandt painting. I love that your poem is about those silent guards.
Posted 06/23/2020 01:21 PM
Wonderful poem in so many ways, especially the amorphous ending.
Posted 06/23/2020 10:27 AM
Larry Schug:
There is much to contemplate in this poem. The words "still life" alone are fodder for meditation. So well constructed and written, Emily!
Posted 06/23/2020 06:40 AM

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