The tip of the nose seemed the first to be lost,
then the arms and legs,
and later the stone penis if such a thing were featured.

And often an entire head followed the nose
as it might have done when bread
was baking in the side streets of ancient Rome.

No hope for the flute once attached
to the lips of that satyr with the puffed-out cheeks,
nor for the staff the shepherd boy once leaned on,

the sword no longer gripped by the warrior,
the poor lost ears of the sleeping boy,
and whatever it was Aphrodite once held in her severed hand.

But the torso is another story—
middle man, the last to go, bluntly surviving,
propped up on a pedestal with a length of pipe,

and the mighty stone ass endures,
so smooth and fundamental, no one
hesitates to leave the group and walk behind to stare.

And that is the way it goes here
in the diffused light from the translucent roof,
one missing extremity after another—

digits that got too close to the slicer of time,
hands snapped off by the clock,
whole limbs caught in the mortal thresher.

But outside on the city streets,
it is raining, and the pavement shines
with the crisscross traffic of living bodies—

hundreds of noses still intact,
arms swinging and hands grasping,
the skin still warm and foreheads glistening.

It’s anyone’s guess when the day will come
when there is nothing left of us
but the bare, solid plinth we once stood upon

now exposed to the open air,
just the wind in the trees and the shadows
of clouds sweeping over its hard marble surface.

This Issue

November 8, 2007