Posted on March 1, 2014 by Patricia Ann McNair3.1.2014 Journal Prompt Image from Summer of 42 March 1, 2014: It took my breath. Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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I wandered in off the street. I was in search of some escape from the blistering sun and the breathless heat, and the people in crowds and chattering like too many birds, and everywhere the smell of cheap meat cooking. It was cool inside and it took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the change in the light. The young girl at the desk took my money and she pointed to where I should go. She did not smile or even look in my direction.
I wandered from gallery to gallery, not really seeing the pictures on the walls or marking the sculptures. It was quiet and I could hear my every step and my own breath and my heart beating. I wiped my forehead with the back of my hand. It was cool now and damp with sweat and my shirt was stuck to the small of my back.
Then I was suddenly in front of a large white marble sculpture, white like milk that is freshly pulled from the cow so that it’s not really white but something close to white. And I was staring at a marble hand grasping the marble thigh of a young girl and, where the fingers of the hand held her, they sank into her marble flesh. The touch was real and I wept to see it.
The sculpture is by Bernini and it depicts Pluto and Proserpina. It is a story of gods and pretty girls and how the gods can just take what they want in this world. And Pluto is in the act abducting Proserpina to carry her down to his cold dark underworld. And Proserpina does not want to go. But it is Pluto’s right hand that holds me, the way the fingers press into the marble of Proserpina’s thigh. And Bernini was only twenty-three when he completed the sculpture and the old man’s hand grasping the firm and giving flesh is not something brutal or hard, but is something tender and soft, for gods love as we do.
My hand is small next to his, next to Pluto’s, but I lay my hand on his as though I give a blessing to what he does. And the marble is cold under my hand and a man in a dark uniform approaches me and, though I do not understand the words that he speaks, I know he is telling me that it is not permitted to touch the sculpture.
I am taken back in that moment to a time that is almost but not quite lost in my memory. I am a boy then and a woman is before me. She smells of flowers and she is the prettiest flower in any garden, that’s what I think – then and now. And I worship her a little, and she says my name, soft as whispers, and she strokes my face, her hand both forbidden and like a blessing. And she kisses me, dares to, her lips pressed to mine, and she takes my hand and she presses it to her breast.
I stand in front of Bernini’s marble and there are sculpted tears on Proserpina’s cheek and real tears on mine, and there’s a man watching me from the dark edge of the room and he sees me weeping and breathless and he has seen this before so he thinks he understands, but he does not.