Lake Effect, Spring 2012, Volume 16: Devotion

Lawrence Raab



The fire’s out of control. On the wall
there’s a Rembrandt, and in your desk
a snapshot of your wife. Which
do you save? The Rembrandt, of course.
And yet—shouldn’t this story include

a grandmother, pose a more difficult
moral dilemma? Then imagine that photo’s
the only one left of your wife, who perished
in an earlier fire, along with all the negatives.
Say she was very beautiful.

Maybe you’re thinking that’s irrelevant.
But it’s not. Beauty is never irrelevant.
What do you do? Yes, once again
you choose the Rembrandt. And then
it strikes you—there’s time

to rescue both! So you set the painting
carefully under a tree and rush back
into the burning house, at which point
the entire second floor collapses
and you’re crushed as you grasp for the knob

of the drawer. A cruel irony?
Not exactly. More like an example
of bad timing, or devotion, as well as a way
of suggesting this story has no moral,
and no point, which is unfortunately

often the case with art today,
where lack of insight seems easily
confused with the world’s apparent
absence of purpose—a common error,
I’m afraid, of the very young,
who are so impatient, and thoughtless,
and beautiful, and impossible to save.