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  • Naomi Haugen

A Bird and A Boy (after Ganymede and the Eagle by Bertel Thorvaldsen)



Ganymede and the Eagle • Berthold Thorvaldsen

Marble Gift of The Morse Foundation, 66.9

Many years before I became a Guide at Mia, I wrote these five related poems inspired by one of my favorite objects in the museum. As an exercise in literary expression, I tried interpreting the sculpture through each of the five senses.

 

I. 

I Want to Break the Rules.            

Are ancient myths

always like this? Hard

but lovely? Brutality turned

tender? Who’s to say

 

Ganymede

was sad to be cup-boy

for Jupiter? Not Thorvaldsen,

 

hammer and chisel flying

he finds this silky stone thigh,

these perfect curls, the captor’s

talons and feathers

 

Touch me!

says the prince turned

servant

Touch me! shrieks the god

turned raptor — We are your body

in stone

 

 

II.

Hi Gan!

Quiet here, now that you’ve gone off 

No beep-beep of video games

no clomping on the stairs

no clattering dishes at 1AM

LOL!

RU keeping busy there with the old eagle? 

Do you get time off from the cup-bearing?

Hope the music’s good — Orpheus, and all the rest 

Remember the day you left?

Those wings flapping and whirring!

That whoosh!

Wish I got it on video for Insta — maybe next time?

BTW — you look good in marble

 

 

III.

Kitchen Notes, Rome, 1817

Most days, the Dane stops by for supper

after the Academia

white dust on his clothes, in his hair, on his beard

Cavaliere Alberto we call him

easier to say than Signor Thorvaldsen 

Likes his food simple

Whatever got butchered that day is good enough —

veal, chicken, pork

a light sauce

maybe some parsley or thyme

And vino, of course

Always the vino  

 

 

IV.

The Scent of Art

the flowers in Jupiter’s kingdom

possess aromas

sweeter, deeper and richer

than any in the mortal world

luring divine and ageless bees

to gather pollen

and produce honey

golden and godly

 

a boy, captured by Jupiter

for just this task

gathers the honey,

makes the nectar

and serves it to Jupiter

 

If not for the fragrance of flowers,

would Ganymede still be doing princely things back in Troy

instead of here

in marble

bending

to the eagle’s every wish?

 

V.

Kidnapped for Beauty

He snatched me because I am beautiful,

my perfect proportions

of limb and torso

the sinuous line of

spine and neck. He cast me

 

in marble

because I am so lovely,

chipped at the stone

until my flawless face

emerged

serene

 

See my cap 

the cap of revolution

the liberty cap

Do you see freedom

in my hardened pose?

 

Am I then a slave?

Forced into captivity

and servitude

forever leaning toward

the bird, forever offering

liquid of stone?




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