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 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.
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