Adrian Caesar

 

III

 

Star in Stone

 

At the top of the marble staircase stands

the winged Victory of Samothrace,

a horde of adoring photographers at her feet.

She looks like a star posing for Who Weekly

or New Idea; the cameras flash,

lenses held aloft for the money shot;

if only she had a head, you feel she’d smile

before descending the red carpet into

the crowded premiere. As it is, we see

her windswept legs and torso urging forward,

her stone drapery and wings blown back

by the force of her ever onward surge

across the centuries into millions of folders

labelled: my pictures or home-movies

travel diaries with no need of words.

How appropriate her decapitation is

to the idea of human triumph in this

new century of brutal wonders:

forever snapped, framed and paid for

she is the ultimate celebrity.

 

 

 

IV

 

The Medusa Angle

 

A good subject for an artist: survival

in a vast sea of indifference, though maybe

Gericault had something more serious

and heroic in mind: the human condition etc.

Certainly he’s said to have researched the wreck,

done prep on cadavers at the morgue

(fortunate they weren’t closer to home)

still it suggests a certain dedication missing

in the happy snappers with their instant images:

they’d have no problem on the raft,

health and safety a mobile call away;

they’d take some shots of the dying

while they wait for the saving chopper

and email to a news station or a friend.

But this is to digress. How interesting it is

he chose at least two painters as models:

Delacroix, at the apex, is in good shape

but Jamar, the minor artist, is a corpse;

we may read what we like into that.

Though we’re told the painting’s about hope

it looks like a parable of the need to be noticed;

the urgers at the front, the less confident

in the middle, losers to the rear.

How we long to stand at the forefront

waving our shirts, sighting the famous

rescue on the horizon, but then it’s salutary

to let eyes drop to the one facing backwards

in an attitude that might be taken for comic

despair, hand on chin, resigned and dumb

one arm round the body of his dead son.