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The Inconsolable

                                    David Roderick

At the palace in Pisa, Bartolini caused a scandal
by making his students sketch
a hunchback eating meat,

as he believed only through
the close observation of nature
can we view the truly beautiful.

His own sculpture for the Countess,
The Inconsolable, was his monument to that end,
a female figure with a dramatic stare,

the precedent for many a mourner
whether allegory, sculpture, or relief.
With dog-tooth and file

he carved the stone into motion
so she could grieve the Count’s death,
her true anguish alive in the marble,

pressed by a mountain’s weight. 
In an early era men wedged
the stone and poled it down a slope

to mules in traces and a ready barge,
marble selected for its polish
and resistance to shattering.

Bartolini shuddered as he shaped
the Countess’s face, believing if he could find
some source of hope prior to her crisis

he might comfort or even console her.
After a banquet they made love,
and the next morning, crossing the market,

he heard hens clucking,
felt the whole alley blowing his cropped hair.
He didn’t realize he was living

near the end of the great quarries at Carrara,
that if we spend our time trying
to understand ourselves through hope,

“inconsolable” becomes nothing
but a word in a book, or like the column at Pisa,
that tower that will someday fall.

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