for Christopher Griffin
Like Dante, I had a guide. Emerging from the hellish heat of the gym
After rigorous sets of benching and squats, my friend,
In post-workout delirium, remembered something he felt I should see. . . .
Can a diamond be made of bronze? I tell you: obviously.
And so obvious it seems to me that only a poet's largesse
Could bequeath to hooves a set of wings and conjure freely the Pegasus.
How long has that horse been with us? Well, I can tell you why it lasts:
We need mirrors — and don't call it vanity, that kind of incestuous fooling
Breeds a short-lived child. No, we make a mirror not to see our best side
But all sides. Way back when, a man was moved and closed his eyes —
Tears, then like now. Beauty: he could care less about credit,
Foreseeing the joy of other's joy. It was not the horse he had taught to fly.
So there it was in two dimensions, a bas-relief in a breezeway,
A public gem on the Princeton campus dropped among bricks and slate.
But late last night I walked past it again. Blinking, a fluorescent bulb
Cast a dim, erratic light which became the sleeping pulse of the pair.
The horse nuzzles the Poet's head, the Poet's weight to the horse;
The man holds no pen nor does the Pegasus take to the air.
Instead, they lean upon each other, sustain and buttress their form
Like the sides of a perfect triangle, the earth its vital base.
Has anything changed among horses and men? Sculptors, poets —
They still want to put wings on them. I walked back under stars, thinking how
There is a difference: now the reflection's no myth. We are alone
With our creation, the horse whom we made and gave flight.
"The Poet and Pegasus" by French sculptor Émile-Antoine Bourdelle