The Beautiful Things

abstract illustration with frame and butterflies
Paul Spella / The Atlantic

As long as one knows the appeal of the qin,
what is the need for the sound of the strings?

      — Attributed to Tao Yuanming, 365–427

In the museum, I looked at
the beautiful things, one after another,
so many I could not take them all in.
Then I sat in the inner pavilion, clouds
moving overhead, the pages of my book blank.

Because I could not see as I wanted to see.
I was beyond beauty. I was beyond seeing.
What is the point of a museum?
What is the point of being?
To believe only that I disbelieve?