gormley's bodies

Poem by Peter Lo Bianco

I

Shock is the first thing you feel, finding them there

across your path, their hollow heads

and bodies clad in lead, figures of change

blocking the way, suddenly distancing

all about them in a world you thought you knew.

 

Questioning, the statues watch in your skin,

not as cairns of stones on a moorside

stoically marking the places you will never reach

but crafted selves, husks of a conscience,

inner voices that speak your fears.

 

It is difficult to say how far we reach

though the patinas of lead, as the harsh words

founder, lost in our mouths, echoing

from far away, and saying, Try, try.

So now, on our way, we nod as we pass.

 

 

II

As the rusted angel of the north,

the fixed wing of Jacob’s ladder,

spreads its mended spirit over Durham,

over those of us who, unable to fly off,

stay weighted and quite still as the surf

rolls in - erodible, patient of the least waves,

limed and lichened and a long time waiting

in our welded bodies without even a cloth

that might pre-empt the breeze - the zephyrs

of sculpture that mark out its real space -

so we three figures, motionless on the beach,

kneel in the inhalation of the salt air,

or stand, or gaze down into tidal water,

into the depths I see when I close my eyes.

 

 

III

They left us outside in your metal skin

far from the warm hearth, to seethe and grieve

and suffer winter. We gleamed in the rain.

 

We are heavy objects that partition sleet,

cadastral bourns that mark out landscapes,

stamping them with your reflection.

 

We distract the walkers as they pass by

wrinkling their faces, or they fondle us

or poke fingers through our eyes. It is bleak

 

to be cast as provocateur for life,

for the paths of our un-burnished thoughts

offer no bend or turns or other cheek.