Bust of Camille

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I am exhausted, can’t you see it,
How my eyes are so ripe with lassitude,

And you call them beautiful.

What is yet unborn wells up in me
And disturbs the symmetry of my charm.

And you say I have become so secretive,
But what could I now say?

The things that I fashion grow so frightening,

And speak on my behalf with
Distorted mouths.

And see my hand,
What you once so fondly called

The coil of my creation,
how monstrous it has grown,

And it already shapes my famed madness,
And it is as though I was no more than hand,

Brutal instrument of my genius
That would one day smother us.

But then you remember my lips,
Which have always been so childlike,

Fragile,

A sensuality wholly reserved for me alone
And waiting to break.

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The Burghers of Calais

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Some with eyes of bold acceptance
Of impending horrors
That cancel others.
And this one turning back,

With open pleading mouth
To the city that
Already goes about its daily business,
And hears the hawkers in the streets,
And sees the watchmen at the wall.

And this one with grim determined cheeks,
Gazing straight ahead
At the arrayed captors,
While the condemned hour
Dances on his lips

And he almost smiles.
And at last, the key holder,
In the centre,
around whom the others
Revolve like abandoned stars,

His head bowed with the weight
Of the sacredness of his death,
While it is not despair, but
Release
That floats across his gaunt face.

That the city may be saved,
These five must go away.
And so, like one without a homeland,
Whose body is no longer chained

To anything,
His feet move toward the open field
As though they were
Of another’s volition,

And how light,
How pleasant the wet grass
As he gazes into immense distances,

Eyes filled with reverence,
Far beyond the bristling soldiers
And the walls of the surrendered city.

The Waltz

La_Valse

Your arm,
With full surety that air
And movement never fail,
Clasps my waist.

Your mouth,
As if you knew that
I had finally surrendered,
Pressed to my neck,
Which already ever so lightly
Retreats.

And as if to assert that this
Dance should be anchored
In known things;
Turn, rhythm, embrace,
Release,
The dominant and subordinate one,
You pull back my loosening grip.

But notice how,
Like one who nonchalantly
Throws off her dress,
I have already abandoned equilibrium.

Headlong we will fall
In a chaos of unraveling distances;
Only then will I see what lies
Behind your poise.

Danaïd

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You were cruel to leave me alone,
With only my hands, and
Only my art.
In your absence I turned the chisel
Against my own longing,

My despair entered this stone,
And like nerve pulling at nerve
I retrieved your impossible, naked
Soul from its guts.

See how the shoulders arch here,
Where the light becomes sharp and unforgiving,
This is where I first cut my heart out
With your touch.

And here, where the hair plunges
Like a leviathan of caresses,
Down into the unhewn rock,
Here my belief in the separateness
Of our bodies finally fails.

I am curled into every curve,
And surge and retreat of your terrible absence.

When you return, you
Will discover I have gone quite mad.
Night after night in my atelier
I have disemboweled myself,
A dozen new figures to worship your savagery.

The Separation of Camille and Rodin

Auguste Rodin

No, let me turn now and go away
From your too complete fierceness.
Until you the women I loved
Remained encased in my art,
Figures I could bend in plaster, bronze,
With violence, with tenderness.

But then you burst forth,
And refusing this clay immortality
All men offer,
Deigned from the beginning
To create.

And I loved you,
Because to my sensuality you offered this
Savagery,
Female vehemence.
What in me had grown too smooth, yielding,
Discovered suddenly, in you,
A disheveled beauty that far outstripped me,
And my art became frightening.

From you I learned the craft of agony,
The torn open garden of your female genius,
That is now mine.
And what I create is ugly and essential,
The breasts of my women are inhuman,
The loins of my men collapse the world,
And those who look upon my art
Spit at its feet and turn away in contempt.

You have given me this triumph,
Returned to me stone and soil.
But I want myself back,
My languid hurt.
Your too full madness imprisons me,
And I don’t know what my art means,

For it surpasses us both
And annihilates our purpose.
No, let me turn now and go away
From your perfect love.

The Visionaries (For the Children of the Documentary, Born into Brothels)

Sometimes things force us to see
this life’s intolerable enchantment,
and how far we still fall short
of its primordial command
to be everything,
to be all things.

I’ve seen something that
opened me,
like a blade of sun
slicing the unready fruit,
that glistened in its pain anyway.

I’ve seen children, in the ferocity of their small lives,
clutching at cheap cameras,
showing us how much we could still be,
how young time is, even in us.

I mean the children of the ghettos of Calcutta,
of the sunless streets that
narrow the heart,
and the dead ends like so many short lives.

I mean how, against the defeated wind,
they too find a brief time to bloom
in an explosion of arrogant youth.
Suddenly this trepidation,
the ancient, anticipated song,
the shutter that falls before a fearless eye.

Each one will show us something new.
Each with their camera, their lens,
and the rudiments of vision,
goes out into their broken world
to find its unsought beauty.

And there in their images,
the depth of poverty’s heart,
the dignity of each sudden colour,
unearthed by its children.

How we feel shaken
by these brutal eyes of hope,
how we feel like all things,
like everything in their lens.

The Gattamelata I (Padua)

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See, this tensed energy
balanced on its awkward podium,
how in the soaring, contorted limbs,
that bulge like bronze fortresses,
you sense the horse’s revolt
against the stirrups,

while the head, sharp and unyielding,
fiercer than any enraged cloud,
would, at the slightest
loosening of the bite,
charge to the very edge of the high cliff,
to the ocean’s hoarse, unreasonable call.

But the taut man above,
with the self-assurance of
one who would conquer,
gathers up all this bellowing rage
into his equine brow.
For he is like a pole
about which a savage light grows tame,

and seated in his saddle,
he conjures purposes for those things
still without language.

See, in the joining of these two,
the horse is welded as a planet to its star,
and becomes an infinite road,
and an empire rising
beneath the hand’s firm hold.