Spearthrower

We piled off the bus—field trip!—
my teacher saying, suggestive and disinterested, “Just look.”
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts free and full of kids,
Chinese jades, gods and goddesses from everywhere,
room after room of very old faces looking back at us.
And here this one naked man
so tall and alone in his own room,
“The Spearthrower” though he’d lost his spear long ago
along with the hand that held it. Such a serious look
on his face, his cheeks and lips worn down, misty,
naked for so long! His stomach sticking out
with a little hip shimmy, from the side he was
sort of a blockhead. His cock and balls
gone, we giggled and pointed and I felt the little cock
in my pants and felt funny still circling him,
like I was naked too.
Nobody said don’t stare. I stared,
the Roman looking out over me. I think
I was aware in a cloudy but not confusing way
this body was a made thing,
the mottled gray-white marble, smooth but not soft,
somebody made it long ago, hand and chisel to stone.
He seemed to step forward, out into the room
the same step for so many years.
I circled him to see where he stared,
circled and somehow it was better
than trips to look at the monkeys and tigers at the zoo.
Maybe I spun around, maybe I flapped my arms,
maybe I struck a pose too, imaginary spear in my left hand.
He wasn’t getting back on the bus with us
but still mine to keep, this way to stand—
right foot sneaking forward for balance
me and my Roman ready, come what may.

Note from the poet: I wrote “Spearthrower” to honor a moment of being a child and blown away by a work of art. I don’t recall being “prepared” for the museum or what I might see, just set loose. It was an early experience of being pulled out of my body (or maybe deeper into it) toward something larger, something old, beautiful, and strangely compelling.

For more poetry, see “What Light: This Week’s Poem” on mnartists.org