Statue in the Sand
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
and wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
tell that its sculptor well those passions read
with head rounded by the driving sand.
Figure with lion body and head of man,
a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun
stands guard over this abandoned city
somewhere in the desert’s sands.
The traveler found a brief respite from uncaring winds
within its shadowed presence,
its lingering dread like a balm for his many cuts
here at the end of the world.
What had driven him here: Madness, he supposed
or the words of his former master who spoke,
“That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall
looking as if she were alive, I recall.”
Believing in old men’s lies, then unbelieving
had set him on this trek here for this truth
which lesser men dare not look for: the Statue
was the marker for his yearning need.
There stood the door in the Statue’s lee,
he had arrived and so took out the key,
his heirloom had led him to the secret
that lay beneath these sands: his legacy.
The key undid the lock and the door unsealed,
steps led into darkness, blindly counting the steps
in his descent, he caught an echoing tread behind him,
something followed him though he was alone.
Something has ceased to come along with me,
something like a person: something very like one.
In the darkness, he knew who it was by the tread:
the one he sought, but should not be seeking him.
His father followed him, his father who was dead.
His father who wanted him to follow the familial footsteps
was here to make sure he did his duty
to the ancient ones forgotten by nearly all.
The Pact had been signed and blood passed
to insure one of each generation would take on this task
which had come to him at last
to offer obeisance to that which oversaw the family.
The darkness lessened till he reached the last step of the hundred: there the eternal flame
stood as a man might:
time to make his sacrifice, for in what distant deeps
or skies burnt the fire of its eyes.
His sacrifice was his left hand which he offered,
as it was accepted by the flame there was only a little pain.
“Fear no more the heat of the sun, nor the furious
winter’s rages; thou thy worldly task is done.
“Grasp and remember these words to console you
in bitter misfortune: those living near will offer your bones last ritual appeasement
for the remainder of time
that site will be named Palinurus.”
All his sorrows are driven away from his heart,
sad and aching, pain is, for just a moment expelled,
he delights in the land’s name for it is the name of his family.
It would now continue, he had done his part.
He turned from the eternal flame and made his way
back to the world of the living and its sand-filled sky.
The Statue seemed to wink at him as he locked the door, it could’ve been just a
trick of the light in this desolate realm.
Nothing beside the statue remains. Round the decay
of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
the lone and level sands stretched far away
erasing his footprints as though he never had been there.
---Purple Mark, 11/05/2011
Purple Marks' Prompts:
- "Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, tell that sculptor well those passions read." Percy Bysshe Shelly. Ozymandias. (Hoopoe Books, 1999)
- "That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall looking as if she were alive. I call..." Robert Browning. My Last Duchess.
- "Somewhere in sands of the desert a shape with lion body and the head of a man, a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun." William Butler Yeats. Second Coming.
- "Believing in old men’s lies, then unbelieving." Ezra Pound. Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.
- "Fear no more the heat o’ the sun nor the furious winter’s rages; thou thy worldly task hast done." William Shakespeare. Cymbeline (Act IV, Scene 2)
- "Grasp and remember these words to console you in bitter misfortune. Those living near- driven far, driven wide, by celestial omens, city to city - will offer your bones last ritual appeasement: build you a mound and they’ll send to that mound solemn, annual tributes through the remainder of time that site will be named Palinurus. All of his sorrows are driven away. From his heart, sad and aching, pain is, just for a brief moment, expelled; he delights in the land’s name." Frederick Ahl (translator). Virgil: The Aeneid. (Oxford University Press, 2007) pg. 140.
- "Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away." Percy Bysshe Shelly. Ozymandias. (Hoopoe Books, 1999)
Randomly Accessed Poetics is now taking submissions for short stories and poetry of any style including explicit language pieces. Stop by randomlyaccessedpoetics.com for details on where to send your polished piece(s).