Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 37: Etruscan Cista Handle

Sand Opera Lenten Journey Day 37: Etruscan Cista Handle

I spent part of the morning listening to Woody Guthrie songs with my daughter Leila, who spied a poster of him in my office. We listened to “Pretty Boy Floyd,” the Dylan cover, which tells the story of a generous Robin Hood outlaw. My favorite lines end the song:

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

Today’s poem is inspired by one of my favorite pieces in the Cleveland Museum of Art, the handle of a cista from the Etruscan period, a small box or casket that often contained something precious.

Etruscan Cista Handle         (from Sand Opera)

How peaceful he looks, the gates of his face
now shut for good, facing the ground. His body’s

hoisted horizontal, his arms embrace
the air, his penis a slack finger of gravity. 

Two winged soldier-angels must stoop, stagger
to cradle his naked inhuman weight. 

Their heads torqued, as if listening to the lead
of the body, they bear it in bent tender shoulders,

in the balked leaning and strain of their gait, 
and struggle against falling. Their maker is dead. 

And still the war continues, though it takes
other names. Sarpedon bronzed not breathing, the angels

bronze stumbling, all burned into a single handle. 
To open the jewelry box, you have to grasp the corpse.



Maureen said...

That concluding line . . . wow. Gets me every time.

Philip Metres said...

Thanks, Maureen!