Monday, March 5, 2012

The Gates of Hell by Steven Gray


               (a sculpture by Rodin at Stanford University)

Standing at the Gates of Hell,
it feels like a rehearsal,
it’s a heavy metal representation,
a reversal

of the elevating. Here
the human beings fall
away from the divine, the
theology appalling,

but consider the location:
maybe it’s about
the suffering students who are damned
if they are dropping out.

The man-hours that went into this
metallic metaphor,
the figures are gesticulating,
there is room for more.

They’re going from the pan into
the fire, I’m resisting
the behavioral engineering,
hell does not exist.

The horrifying does, and it is
seeing through your clothes,
are these the people who have learned
their homes have been foreclosed?

The concept and the execution
were a tour de force,
evoking every kind of pain
from gravity to divorce.

The sculptor was an opportunist
jumping at the chance
to show the human figure from
all angles at a glance,

and that requires chaos, there are
people upside down.
I thought about the burning towers
in another town.

We’re haunted by a fall from grace,
historically a mass grave
is an awful classroom, you are
learning to behave,

but it’s a sunny afternoon,
if it’s the Gates of Hell
the vertigo would have us by
the hair.  I lived to tell

about it, but I have to admit
a subway is more hellish
with a cold wind underground,
the echo of a death-wish.

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