Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Beginning and End( 04/16/09)
By Seema Bagai
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“Are they supposed to look that way?”
“Wonder what it would look like had he finished.”
I hear these mutterings daily as people pause to gawk at me and my three companions. Most do not give us a second glance. They brush by us on their way to the end of the hall to view him. They wonder why we have been given these positions in the Galleria. Those who stop to study us may formulate a conclusion as to our completeness. Only my creator knows for certain.
The sculptor found me among the blocks in the quarry in Carrara. For weeks he inspected the slabs, occasionally pointing to one which would then be set aside. Often he would pause before me, his sharp eyes boring through my rough exterior as if he could sense I was trapped within. When he placed his warm hands upon me, I felt primed to emerge from my confinement.
Eventually he deemed me worthy and I was hauled down the mountain. Together with the others, I was shipped to the sculptor’s workshop in Florence. My anticipation grew while I awaited release from my stone prison.
Then the day arrived when he stood before me, hammer and chisel in hand. Would it hurt? He placed the chisel against me and struck it with the hammer. A chip floated to the floor. Another strike and another. With each jolt, I felt lighter and freer.
Day and night the hammer and chisel pounded against my frame. The sound became a hymn to my liberator. Often, he would stop to circle around me, step back, then closer, and back again. Marble dust coated his clothing and dusted his beard as he struggled to discover my location imbedded within the stone. After some time, my torso emerged and then my legs. Suddenly I wanted to sprint across the room, but my feet remained encased within the stone.
Eventually my head emerged, with one arm bent at the elbow and draped across my face. Soon I will be liberated. The more he chiseled, the stronger my yearning became for complete release from this prison.
Then abruptly he ceased working on me. The sculptor disappeared for long stretches of time rarely returning to his workshop. When he did emerge, weariness and longing adorned his haggard face. He would set a candle on the table, pick up his tools, and finger the metal. Each time, though, he would slam the hammer back upon the table and storm from the room, muttering something about time and priorities. The few times he stayed in the workshop he only made minor cuts to my limbs. Eventually, the sculptor departed permanently.
For many years I stood in the darkness, on the verge of release from my marble confinement. I longed for my creator to return to complete my liberation. Then the day arrived when the four of us unfinished statues were moved outdoors to a garden grotto. They called us Prigioni, but I felt released from my imprisonment. Finally I could again feel the warmth and wind I remembered from Carrara.
Generations of people passed through the grotto. They spoke in hushed tones of Michelangelo, the divine one, as they pointed at us. Many seemed disappointed and speculated as to whether we were complete or left unfinished to languish through the ages.
Today I find myself indoors again, but not confined to darkness. We stand regally on pedestals in our own gallery in the Accademia. I believe if the sculptor were here to see us, he would declare us finished.
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