Forget the photos. Today I want you when you ruled,
When you sailed through the room, my schooner,
And men and boys fell on each other in your wake –
Today I want your shape, your heft, your grace.
It’s the Thirties, say, and I will sculpt you:
Not the strapping peasant girl bringing forth
Her fields of grain, not the shopfloor virgin
Goading the workers to exceed their quotas …
No, today I’ll do you and your reign justice:
A monument in the public square,
A clump of men fallen (stone or bronze),
Writhing, agony, gestures, the struggle,
And there above them, above the fray,
You as I would only you portray –
Nothing vulgar or carnal, a presence
We divine only in their faces, all there
And yet vanished like the victory they sought
Or the life this stone, wiser now, would strive for.
You: a whiff, a storm, a sovereign form,
A vapour trail dispersing in the vivid air.
Yes, a clump of men and among them, me,
Kneeling in prayer or pain, mouth open, head back,
My words (what words do statues speak?) you alone hear,
And all around, like coats at a party
In midwinter, piled high on an upstairs bed,
My comrades, my rivals, men of honour,
Ardent partisans all, in love, in battle, fallen,
Their wet hearts pitchforked onto this stone slab.