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This poem originally appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of The Antioch Review.

THE UNFINISHED SLAVE
 
by Bruce Bond
 
                   After Michelangelo
 
The man we see writhing in the marble,
what is he without the strength of all
we do not see.  A slave, we are told,
though to what: the rock, the king, the world
that, cut or uncut, we can’t remember.
To be distinct, chiseled as a number
across a grave, that was his dream once.
If only he could shake the rough stone
from his back, instead of being one.
Or if he stood naked before the tomb
he was meant to guard, perhaps then
he would wear a god’s glass complexion.
As is, he is abstract, and so closer
to us, to the life that makes a future
the anticipated past, our heads half
buried, blind, disfigured by the stuff
to which we owe our restlessness, our art.
The hand that carves its figure in the slate
abandons it, thinking it will lie
beneath its work some day, beneath a sky
that refuses to commit, to lift.
It’s in there somewhere, whatever’s left
of those who drive a hammer into us.
With every blow, a little bloom of dust
flies.  Time keeps its promise to itself.

***

Bruce BondBruce Bond is the author of fifteen books including six forthcoming: Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (University of Michigan Press), For the Lost Cathedral (LSU Press), Black Anthem (Tampa Review Prize,University of Tampa Press), Gold Bee (Crab Orchard Open Competition Award, Southern Illinois Press), Sacrum (Four Way Books), and The Other Sky (Etruscan Press). Presently he is Regents Professor at University of North Texas.

 

 

 

© 2015 The Antioch Review

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