Home > Poetry > As Relic, As Remnant
Published: Wed Apr 15 2020
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
AGNI 91 Class Home Politics
As Relic, As Remnant

Beneath old cities,
the spades divulged
finely trussed corpses:
an ancient requital
for displacing the land.
Now, history stiffens
on display
like a well-lived body:
steel carvings cracking
like bones in the moor;
papers worn fibrous
as skin; paintings flaking
with luster,
as every fine coat must.
Even the Elgin marbles
have stilled,
their mouths steeled blue
like the wet-wool nubs
knotting the clouds together.
Here, city-skirts undress
into sprawls of pale light,
chip-toothed lawns
fraying gray
like old boutique lace.
from their ashy mouths
are graffiti walls,
rugged houses
wearing rooftops
like shingled hips—
all the vernacular homes,
the ones now wintering
into craters. Look.
The evicted rise
from placards of cardboard,
gnarled hands and creased faces
holding hardened daylight,
the city installing
fault lines at their feet
as though their removal
were a sort of renewal:
an immortalization
of the well-lived.
Yet, two storefronts down,
the statues backlit
in the museum’s glass mouths
look like any other man
in the light.

See what's inside AGNI 91
Disarticulated Map
Online 2024 Travel Home Politics
Action at a Distance
AGNI 91 Home Politics War
Generation Loss
AGNI 91 Aging Class Politics

Kate Li is a high school junior from the Chicago area. Their work has been recognized and published by Columbia College Chicago and Penn State, and has received honors from the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the National YoungArts Foundation, Interlochen Arts Academy, and The Financial Times. They are a genre editor for the literary magazine Polyphony Lit. (updated 4/2020)

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