Msnowe's Blog

The gift of ephemerality

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on July 31, 2007

Marble. The deep veins of blue streak ever-so-cloudily on the smooth surfaces. Surprisingly, marble isn’t as shiny as expected. Even if you don’t admire the art form, you at least have to acknowledge the effort that goes into every serpentine strand of metallic hair that was carefully chiseled and preserved better than any natural mane could boast. But what is more intriguing of the love of marble statues is the fact that they get better and more interesting with age. And these solid, silent septuagenarians wear their phantom limbs and chipped phalanges better than the most stalwart of war heroes. It’s as if walking underneath them, you hear the whispers, sotto voce, of an ancient time. The gaps with missing chunks of torso, the unexplained gash above an ivory eyelid, and you are enthralled, so bedaubed with questions that you must supply a back-story to these figurines, as if you needed to fill some jejune spirit with the heavy stone extracts. Like a child in a new environment, coming up with tales and feats of heroism to explain away the frazzled fragments of a long gone age. This statute fought an ogre, this one a dragon.
But your jubilant spinning only lasts so long. You’ve stumbled into the anterior room, that in which silence is not just absence, but also a color, and heaviness in the air, pressing down on your lungs. You take it in gulps, the long rectangular boxes with carved figures on the sides, and noble effigies placed in the center. You know this is no room of speculation; it is a room of endings. They all seem the same, varied as their lives may have been – all reduced to squares. Walking further, there is one that looks different from the rest. It does not have design on the sides, because its sides are holding up a statue, a dual statue of two figures, lying in unison on the very top of the coffin. It is a man, and a woman, and the man is in the back, the woman lying towards the front, beside him, slightly cradled by his lap. The folds of fabric in marble lay as if fluid, streaming from their necks down to the simply sandaled feet. The man is of some importance, and his wizened head shows age, but deliberate royalty. The woman, his partner in life, is unrecognizable. The body is defined, yet her head and face are rough, and no features are sustained – her countenance an empty cater of the moon, rocky, almost dusty, and seemingly unexplored by the ancient architect who took the steps to preserve her partner’s visage. How awful that her face was worn down, how disturbing that the rest of this remembrance was perfectly intact. The care that went into it was obvious, and a sense of sadness, for the artist, for the faceless woman, for her memory and that of her family, who wanted to remember her in life by creating a living image of marble death. Perhaps some scoundrel chiseled her away, perhaps some jealous lover of her perfect partner. Out spun tales the length of arachnid’s web- intricate, and a challenge to the gods of artistry. Out of all the statues, some with missing arms and breast and ears, this faceless woman caused great distress; she was an uneasy avatar of antediluvian mystery that snagged at the senses. Like a child, knowledge became necessary, precocious imaginings would not hold. Carefully, the truth came out, letter by letter, stitch by stitch all the spun stories unraveled as the truth was revealed by the clever historian, and that truth was simple, concrete, and damning. The reclining couple, partners in life, was here recognized by commission. The man, it is believed, predeceased the woman at his side. The job, though commissioned for both, was abandoned at his death, despite her continued life. This woman, never known in death, was anonymous before she hit the earth lifeless. She was not eroded, not given the luxury of quiet disintegration. She was never whole. A statue devoured by time is just, it is a natural beauty. Perhaps that is why this figure stood out in such relief – not because it was especially beautiful, or because of its odd pattern of decay, but because the project, commissioned for the purposes of two deatha, was abandoned by the one death that overrided the other. Her life was over before she died, the only cause – well that’s an artful question.

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