Block V, South Frieze, Parthenon Sculptures, British Museum
by Steven Riel
Smooth-faced backward glance
surfaces from swirling stream
of uncarved marble. Boy-man
thrust into clatter of battle,
his steed’s mane and his own
forelocks flattened by the gale
grim galloping whips up. How much horse
has crumbled off this block,
or was it left unhewn?
Torso of fresh muscles
our only other chiseled glimpse
of this buck’s being dashed
towards blade’s-edge, now he has spurred.
What alarm springs from his limestone eye!—
as he peers back above a blond cheek
with no time to ponder
his mother’s folded sorrow
when his slingshot stunned a sparrow,
or to hover like a floating ghost
over a tutored lesson’s tablet
where he’d etched Thermopylae in wax—
a reckless scrying over his shoulder
as he hears what rattles right behind:
one harnessed choice: to be trampled
or speared from the rear
or to hurtle into his own beheading.
No nightmare could have schooled him how
cold a stone can grow, how unfinished it can last.
Copyright © 2011 by Steven Riel.