Jay Bernard is a writer, film programmer and archivist from London. As well as working on BFI Flare, London’s LGBTQ film festival, they work at Statewatch, a state research library, archive and collection based at Mayday Rooms. Jay’s first collection Surge (Chatto and Windus, 2019), based on the New Cross Fire archives, won the Ted Hughes Award 2017 and is shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection
I went in at night
took the museum from its glass case
opened its toy roof
there was even a small boat
with my breath in its yellowed sail
every miniature adze and kiwi feather
every moving part
starting at the stairs
I pour liquid plastic on the floor
until it meets the waist of each glass case
then the neck and the eyes
then hovers at the wall’s lip
How many lifetimes passed?
How many tiny scholars did I turn away?
I turned the museum over and tapped its bottom
with the heel of my hand and out fell
a many-lateral shape
stamped with the Celtic rings in the floor
Totem holes and spear holes in this fat churchlike block
I slice the blind dough down its middle
where there were glass cases
there is empty space
and each narrow passage
now a block of white jelly
I want to make a metaphor of this, but how?
Vitrine by vitrine
gash by ledge and step
And did the voices cry out
Where did you put the adze and kiwi feather?
Where did you put the ngutu ta mono?
Where did you put the kete putawa?
Where there were feathers
now you must climb the walls
to find the holes to remember the feathers