David Lewis Paget
The Death Of Magnus Kep - Poem by David Lewis Paget
It was ages since I'd seen him,
So I felt quite out of step
With the old Etruscan sculptor
That I knew as Magnus Kep,
He was brooding in an alley
By an old Byzantine store,
Then he saw me, and he beckoned,
And we walked along the shore.
He was hunting there for marble,
For his studio in Graz,
But we stopped in at a wine bar
And we sampled their Shiraz,
And he told me things he'd never said
To anyone before,
About why he searched the Holy Land,
And ruins, by the score.
'I can see their shapes within each block
Of marble, ' he had said,
'And I know that they are waiting
To be freed, because they're dead,
But they lived so long ago that they
Are patient, in despair,
Though their limbs are still as supple,
And there's fragrance in their hair.'
I was sure the heat had got to him,
His eyes had fairly gleamed,
And I thought his mind disordered,
But I listened to his theme,
He was looking for the marble
That contained the wanton form
Of a pornographic priestess
He had glimpsed the year before.
'She was lying in the harbour,
At the bottom of the sea,
Only fifteen feet of water
Separated her from me,
She had lived a thousand years
Before the walls had tumbled in
To the harbour, where she frolicked
In the service of the king.'
Then we stopped and peered over
At the slight and gentle swell,
Down and through the clear water,
There were pillars, where they fell,
There were blackened slabs of marble lying
Scorched, as if by fire,
Where the mighty Alexander
Burned the city known as Tyre!
'Can you see her there? ' he pointed,
And I saw a marble slab,
Lying half upon a pillar,
It was worn, and dull and drab,
'Do you see that haughty forehead,
Do you see her pointed breasts? '
But I only saw a weathered stone,
He conjured all the rest.
We parted, and I heard that he
Had raised that mighty stone,
Had shipped it back to Graz where he
Could work on it alone,
The seasons came and went before
I thought to follow on,
And asked about his sculpture then,
His eyes had fairly shone.
He led me to the basement and
He showed me through the door,
He'd chiseled out just half of it,
That nearest to the floor,
The woman's legs were parted and
Inviting to the king,
Her vulva gaping proudly like
Some fertile offering.
It took my breath away, I stood
And scanned those supple thighs,
Like frankincense and myrrh they were
A balm upon my eyes,
I saw that she was locked in there,
The sculptor hadn't lied,
He'd simply chipped the stone away
And there she was, inside!
I asked him then, 'How long before
We get to see her face? '
He said it didn't matter, he
Would try to lend her grace,
'She's painted like a whore, ' he said,
'Back then, it was the thing,
Her duty was to paint her face
To please her lord, the king! '
For months I sat and wondered how
She'd looked, as she emerged,
She'd lain in stone three thousand years
When Kep had felt the urge
To chisel from her marble vault
Her buttocks, waist and thighs,
Reveal again to living men
The wonder of their eyes!
I never saw Kep whole again,
Confusing? Yes, I know!
They said they'd had to lay him out
Down at his studio.
His head was in a basket, where they'd
Shown him disrespect,
To free him from the fingers she
Had gripped... around his neck!
2 July 2010
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