Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

Funerary Portraits

Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

Funerary Portraits

Article excerpt

In a world of stone, they grieve in stone.

1 / Mother

The mother presses her head to her hand, already

bowing under the weight

of her strange childlessness, while the child

like the child still uncarved somewhere, reaches out

to the figure who sits, half-veiled,

dazed, with a small box on her lap

containing those objects-comb,

perfume vial, jade necklace-which she will take

with her to a world where they can no longer be used

and where beauty is not an issue.

2 / Hunter

His dogs would follow him. They are pure

energy pent in arabesques of tails,

curling spines, arched necks. But they are held

back by the small servant who knows

his master, this time, has no quarry.

In marble, they whine, and scratch. But he, the young

huntsman whose ordinary brow has

cleared suddenly and widened into something

like an ideal proportion, has no ear

for them. He listens, instead, to a new

chorus of voices, not animal, not

human, but as though

eucalyptus leaves sharpened each

other, blade scraping on blade, and

for the fulfillment of the ceremony, waited,

only for him.

3 / Timarista and Krito

Her fingers on the girl's bare neck, light

and possessive, the girl's head lowered,

arm raised, chiton spilling like water

across uptilting breasts-if these two

are mother and daughter, how

erotic to have given birth, how

the young one-the live one-folds still further

toward the embrace, her silk in flight

from tiny clasps, while Timarista, the elder, stands

column-fluted, staring beyond

the whorls of Krito's

hair, ear, drapery, her past

pleasure knotted in this girl and now

released, so that she halfturns,

her free left arm

thrust out, away, hand open as though

to seize on a new life. …

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