Rodin & Co.
Sample poems from Rodin & Co. (2011)
RODIN AT SCHOOL
Say you’re going to school in the 19th century
a rough little peasant who can barely read or write,
and one day, the other boys outside, you find yourself
alone in the echoing classroom and there’s the chair
of the professor, inviting like an empty throne.
You might have stolen quietly up to see the world
from that position and, feeling its authority,
begun to lecture on whatever you thought, even
rapping the desk as you contrived what sounded like truth
or brandishing your dramatic arm to make a point
although, if you’d never dared or even thought of it,
had been, let’s say, outside with the boys and then come back,
you would have joined the boisterous jeers, laughing, pointing
to shame this dull, dumb, dreamy, presumptuous urchin
and all the dignity he foolishly pretended.
What did any of you know about what would happen?
What did you know about love, art, women in the nude?
Red-faced, you danced in derision at this raw child.
Red-faced, you sat, not sure what law you’d broken, never
imagining the world would stand unclothed before you.
…that rise, irritated and in wrath…. Hands that walk, sleeping hands, and hands that are awakening; criminal hands…and hands that are tired and will do no more.
I look at my own, the left
a curled little animal
or a cup of open desire.
There’s a history of hands,
Rilke wrote, but I cannot
read mine, its plumps and plushes.
Rodin’s was “The Hand Emerging
from the Tomb,” “Devil Holding
a Woman,” “The Hand of God.”
My own is the “Hand Which Smoothes
the Hair,” “Hand Holding My Chin,”
“The Hand with a Heavy Spoon.”
My last hands may scuttle off
like “sick animals that know
no one can help,” Rilke wrote.
Rilke wrote. Rodin sculpted.
Work of the hands, work of the
hands, the hands’ pure busy work.
Rodin’s last hands were busy
and sick. Denied clay, even
a pen or pencil for fear
he’d make a new will, his hands
nibbled at something unseen,
fingers rubbing thumbs, those twin
dumb necessities made for
opening and closing, for
holding on, for letting go.