Monday, 11 August 2014

The clue lies in the lady's toe by Alwyn Marriage

On visiting Henry Moore’s sculpture in Dumfries and Galloway

On a Scottish hillside the bronze statue 
of an archetypal king and queen 
braves the elements,

observing, perhaps, a thread
of slit-eyed sheep winding up the hill, 
with careful, delicate tread,

yellow marks like lichen
on their rumps, their gaze
full of vague unanswered questions.

My mind, also, struggles to explain 
the different texture of the metal on 
the king’s right knee. While all the rest

is stippled, rippled, riven
in a pattern to catch the varying 
shades of light, his knee is smooth.

What point was the sculptor making 
as he carefully fashioned this
one unblemished surface?

Only as I descend the hill
does a clear-cut memory emerge 
from long ago, as I recall

a constant stream of pilgrims 
filing past a marble statue of 
the queen of heaven,

the slight roughness of the stone 
contrasting sharply with the smooth 
and shining toe

which generations of the piou
have knelt to fondle and to kiss, 
wearing away the awkward corners

and bringing out a deeper shine. The line 
of sheep has reached the sculpture now, 
and as I watch

each sidles up to the impassive king 
and meditatively rubs her rump 
against his knee.

© Alwyn Marriage 
first published in The Interpreter’s House, 2012 

This was another poem I heard at the launch of Lunar Poetry t'other night, and is reproduced with the permission of the author.

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