Held back, beauty on the verge,
The caryatid looks out, monumental and virgin —
Half three-dimensional and half refusal,
Her naked shoulder only now emerging.
A better model would be Medusa:
Better that your hair writhe than that your placid
Lips, now round, grow trembling and flaccid
From some carved wound that passes for a bruise
In blue-veined marble of the Muse.
Statuary is worse than paint.
Paint keeps the surface stiff, the torsion compressed;
But torsos raise imaginary arms that grasp faint
Tints as if an incandescent skin undressed
Embraced her pliant bones of lath and mesh.
Anchoress posed with sumptuous constraint
In crusted scent and salt sweat’s languorous taint
On breccia stained by milk from rock expressed,
It must be that heat has pressed into belief
That stone is suffocating white flesh and
Carve back this smothering world into relief, relief.