The Best Piece of Sculpture in Perugia

R.F. Langley

Old vendettas, and no
details of them, or whose

heads were on the spikes. I
don’t want to go down this

sad, steep street, sidestepping
vendors of handbags and

leather belts, only to
be remembering those

flagellants. But at the
bottom is a grass plot,

railings, a gate, unlocked.
Look. Bas-reliefs beside

the Oratory door.
Obedience shoulders

her yoke. She stoops her head,
lifts her left hand, steadies

the beam across her neck.
Behind her right cheek, the

shaft cocks out, pinching
a wriggle of her hair

against her jaw, blustered
in her gusty headdress,

so that it comes poking
from a rippling pouch of

cloth and hair. She looks up.
She opens her mouth. She

is listening to the
smooth pole coming through the

kicking hair and cloth, close
underneath her ear. She

tilts her head to feel the
disturbance eddy its

shadows against her face.
While, quick about, she is

bundling a tuck or two
of darkness where her right

hand catches up her cloak.
Her body rouses to

the surface, luminous
and streaming drapery.

What did I whip myself
with, tottering down the

Via dei Priori?
I spoke to no one. I

suppose that nobody
spoke to me. Probably

my envy sat at the
café tables. If so

I did not glance to see.
Now there is nothing on

spikes to hurry by. No
guilt in the voice or shame

in the eye. It is her
lovely marble, tawny

white, one rim of it scrazed
red, and many pearly

passages bruised with
dim mussel blue. She knows

that it behaves for her.
Her mouth is opening

but she is wondering
what I can find to say.

She is Obedience.
All of my audience.