I lose perspective in national museums
wandering through the nest of rooms.
I forget that history is a long scroll
floating over a smoky battlefield.
When I bend over a glass case to inspect
the detail on an engraved shield,
I stop at a curlicue as if it were everything.
Then in the rare books room I am mesmerized
by little illustrations in the margins
of dictionaries, ink pictures of a lizard, a kayak.
Lost down a corridor of suits in armor,
I cannot find the daylight of an exit
or even an airy room of outdoor paintings,
no blue sky and white clouds in a gold frame.
Maybe it is time to return to the beginning
of knowledge, to relearn everything quietly,
to open an alphabet book and say to myself,
lips moving silently, A is for Apple.
— Billy Collins, from The Apple That Astonished Paris