by Rachel Slover

“David Best’s ‘Temple’ transforms the Renwick Gallery’s Bettie Rubenstein Grand Salon into a glowing sanctuary, offering visitors a quiet place to reflect and pay tribute to lost loved ones. Wooden placards are provided for visitors to write a personal message and leave within the installation.”

Build it. Hoist up the curling walls,
the cascading carved chandelier. For a bit
it is cloistered from the noise.

A couple of years later, take it apart—
the room cauterized, it was only briefly there.
Maybe rebuild it out in the desert,
burn it back out of being—

and being here, it’s breathing in
a shared air. I walk to the altar, climb the steps and
for a moment, the room is just the hollow knock
of my boots up the wood. I peer over the edge—

piles of thin wooden slabs poured over,
I think of wishing wells. They are too far down
for me to read their overlapping asks.

A tiny sign tells us not to write on the walls, though
there is no one who wants to enforce it. People have written
across everything, they brought their own pens, deeper ink.

                                        Bob, you would have loved this

                              Ian it’s spring and we miss you – Mom

I trace the room behind the few others who are here,
we are circling something together. Beside the altar,
the corner is wide enough for me to slide back
into the carving, and I’m back here alone
for a while to feel the walls
hold me at either side.

                    To my boy self,
                    I miss you buddy

And the eyes drawn on the walls, everyone lost
for something is drawing eyes
looking up.

                                       I’m doing my best to let you go

Gasping out from the city center and here
in Washington they crouch behind their walls,
keep making their numbed decisions.

Outside the city is beginning its slow burn.
They are taking the temple down.
It was always meant to be temporary–
a bath of amber light, a break.
I don’t know who I came for.

                    It’s bad baby
                    come back

We are losing sanctuaries,
they don’t wonder how to build more.


back to University & College Poetry Prizes