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In the brooklyn museum.

Classic architecture facing us--pillars, pediment, and dome,
the image of imposing, institutionalized art;
but here's a new glass entrance hall, sky-lit, feeling open,
vast--and, greeting us, more living than the bag inspector,
are twelve Rodin statues, not life-sized
but enormous, giants of his thought. He cast them extra-
large because the early critics had alleged
his "Le Vaincu" had been molded from a living model--

unacceptable technique; the statue was too good (the pose,
the lifted arms showing the biceps,
the mighty neck and rippling torso, musculature in bronze,
almost breathing). Here's Balzac, naked,
corpulent and vigorous--the vision of the Comedie humaine
in person; here, too, the tragic burghers of Calais,
standing alone, the more impressive for it
(hands enormous, palpitant; feet, the very sense of motion,

fit for a colossus; heads, even in their lamentation, strong):
Andrieus d'Andres, the "weeping burgher,"
fingers enmeshed, covering his head in dolor; Jean d'Aire,
holding the city key to be surrendered;
Pierre de Wiessant--like others, rope around the neck;
two more; finally, Eustache de Saint-Pierre,
the bearded burgher, at the center of the monument of six
erected in Calais. All are immense, with eyes far-seeing

in their sacrifice, proclaiming still their fear of martyrdom,
their grief, their pride. The massive presences
confound all critics, as they challenge matter, using
earth in common species--tin and copper ores--fire,
and air, to go beyond it, to surpass the suffering body,
hostage to history--not just the forlorn burghers of Calais,
but vulnerable France, occupied by English
hundreds of years, vanquished on the fields of Waterloo,

once again defeated at Sedan in 1870, amputated of Alsace,
Lorraine. Did Rodin also think of women's bodies--
fragile rose and pale-gold flesh destroyed--
like those he loved (too well), preserved in his erotic sketches?
--We have had enough for now; we round up children,
move into the main pavilion, get our tickets,
visit the European paintings, arranged by genre in a square,
so that portraits on one side stare at our backs as we admire

the landscapes opposite. Then luncheon. But Rodin cannot
be ignored; going out, we stop once more,
marvel, watch the children run among the statues, laughing,
small limbs lively, full of future, friable
though, destined to dissolve in time--even as they resist idea,
the pure bronze of the mind, transcending
such imagined pathos in their midst--art and being in pursuit
of one another, shadows leapfrogging, wrestling in the grass.
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Author:Brosman, Catharine Savage
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 22, 2010
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