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“In the Marble Quarry” by James Dickey (1923 – 1997)
Beginning to dangle beneath
The wind that blows from the undermined wood,
I feel the great pulley grind,
The thread I cling to lengthen
And let me soaring and spinning down into marble,
Hooked and weightlessly happy
Where the squared sun shines
Back equally from all four sides, out of stone
And years of dazzling labor,
To land at last among men
Who cut with power saws a Parian whiteness
And, chewing slow tobacco,
Their eyebrows like frost,
Shunt house-sized blocks and lash them to cables
And send them heavenward
Into small-town banks,
Into the columns and statues of government buildings,
But mostly graves.
I mount my monument and rise
Slowly and spinningly from the white-gloved men
Toward the hewn sky
Out of the basement of light,
Sadly, lifted through time’s blinding layers
On perhaps my tombstone
In which the original shape
Michelangelo believed was in every rock upon earth
Is heavily stirring,
Surprised to be an angel,
To be waked in North Georgia by the ponderous play
Of men with ten-ton blocks
But no more surprised than I
To feel sadness fall off as though I myself
Were rising from stone
Held by a thread in midair,
Badly cut, local-looking, and totally uninspired,
Not a masterwork
Or even worth seeing at all
But the spirit of this place just the same,
Felt here as joy.