The arrow of a rusty sign points the way
To what was once your Galleria d’Arte.
[Ingresso Libero: Free Entry …]
A funeral procession (not yours) was blocked
by a tour bus as it backed its way down from those
sepulchres, now crumbling, of long forgotten soldiers.
Roaring exhaust, it smashed into the stone wall,
ripped into your sculpture, tearing at its cement flesh
and exposing a skeleton of chicken wire …
Three heads yelped at those tourists [discontented]
along the barrier that barred their exit from what was
once the winter sojourn of European aristocrats
who once revelled at the Hotel Angst whose ruins
remain haunted by the ghost whose home was torched,
her property seized, her body never found…
Yet no Cerberus with snarling teeth shields
your proclaimed property, your territorial squat,
its rusty padlocks only secure rotten doors.
Even the Angels on the summit of your pillars
were incapable of guarding your work against
the winds, rains, sand… and the flood of thieves…
Spider webs inch along the unopened gate
where a man with his hand over his rotund belly
ports a noose over his neck next to a ram’s head
which peers from out of a mural [metallic].
Encircled with Biblical hieroglyphics
one pillar mounts Jee-Zus at its pinnacle.
Another holds a Druid priest in a cone cap
pointing high to the firmaments …
Behind a broken glass case
the headlines of a torn newspaper article
boast of your now forgotten genius:
“Omaggio al genio di Cammi.”
At one time your visitors could walk
through well-pruned corridors of living sculpture
under broken lights shaped like golf balls.
But now the hundreds of statuettes and totems
are [covered] by sheets of fiberglass or corrugated metal
held down by hefty rocks and rods of iron.
A bridge of octopus men clasp hands over
the evaporated creek where a prisoner’s face peers in terror
behind the iron bars of a [sewage jail].
Christ bakes in the solar flares upon his crucifix.
Garabaldi shouts victory with rifle in the air.
African slaves in limbo mock their masters.
Faces of tree roots [half human / half spider monkey]
peer in fright behind a patch of wild strawberries
at the Santa Maria now [wrecked and dry-docked].
What was once locked in those shacks where lizards
scour the grounds under a great palm tree???
What stories do these strange totems tell now
as they lurk behind creeping grape vines and fig leaves???
Layer upon layer of histories in circles spiral:
Hands and arms holding hands and arms and bodies…
Human and non-human forms uphold
the heavens for no-longer-guarding guardian angels.
Cigarette packs, candy wrappers,
and plastic bottles accumulate at the feet
of what appears to be your self-portrait,
a sojourner, walking cane in hand.
Is it Giacometti’s lightness of being
concocted with a secret formula in concrete?
You had learned to paint with strokes of wine…
Christ’s blood with the texture of cement.
Not even your friends, Dmitri, “the Bulgarian,”
nor the “Pirate of the Black Cap” know
the secret formula you took to [your grave] …
those mysterious materials of the aesthetic earth…
Beside the mural of stampeding elephants
a mummified woman with a stone on her belly
squats by the entrance of what has become
the public toilet… [what was once your studio]…
And what are those strange creatures— there—
upon the roof top beneath the chimney
become a bird nest totem where living pigeons
now snuggle next to a concrete dove?
A nun holds her womb with one hand…
A monk hugs his big beer belly…
A woman lifts her soft hands to her shoulder…
Another monk holds his hands behind his back…
All stare eyes wide open into the midday sun
without becoming blind… It is a miracle appreciated
by thieves who chopped down three sculptures
to pawn off for coins like tree trunks for timber.
Above, the roar of traffic and buses passing.
Below, your vats for mixing materials have all
been overturned… the substance of your daily labor
where blood and concrete once fused.
The water had built up until the dam burst open
spewing thousands of gallons that galloped forth
over the fields and greening hills where Monet,
like a god, used to paint the lush vegetation…
The floods ported sludge, tearing walls asunder,
wrenching whole houses from their foundations.
The mayor claimed he was forced out in the damp air
to shovel the remnants of what could still be salvaged.
Water crept into the remains of the last dragoon
of the soldier’s cemetery… that same cemetery
where you too were buried [in a pill box]
besides your son where both of your urns
were placed in slots like ovens much like items
on stock shelves in a department store lined up
one on top the other… There was your picture:
Under a blue and brown ski cap, your face with
thick moustache radiates beneath a sky luminescent.
They said your corpse [bruised and decomposed]
was found in the brush behind the walls that girdle
those lands you took “on loan” from the city…
A whole ten days after your death…. They said
your wife, a tango dancer, had gone [mad] after
your son’s car accident: She had no recollection
of when or where you had disappeared…
Ashes to ashes... metal to rust… concrete to dust…
Beach-goers and motorbikes buzz by
without paying the slightest attention...
[So too the mayor’s office…]
Your sculptures of monkeys
and primitive men still haunt your neighbors
like masks of Venetian Carnival…
One could say that this was all just
a game for obtaining vengeance
for those many many years of neglect
And yet many say you were open to the world—
you were friends with everyone in the town;
You—that “great naïve”—
as the policemen once called you—
were not the type of individual who would plot revenge…
Once a year you had invited them all
for anchovies and sausage on the grill
[No cash leftover to eat for a month after…]
while they still closed their doors to you.
Your artwork was certainly out of sync with
your time. No one could understand your dreams.
Your life estranged from the average routine.
From behind [the bars of the sewer] your sculptures—
carved into the river’s embankment—had stared in horror
when bulldozers finally came to flatten the earth.
Elephants still bellow in three dimensions
upon your mural where FORZA is now scrawled
upon what was once your studio [now condemned].
The stream, the olive and palm trees, their roots
have now dried to the crisp to the point of burning
where your squat was once flooded decades ago…
I stare into the void of the past and present.
Much of what is described in this poem
no longer exists.
Your life’s work utterly demolished
condemned by a not-so-Biblical flood without
even the warning of a bollino rosso:
Only pigeons fluff their feathers and waddle
upon the few totems that still stand…
The urn of evolution from Ape to Man to Godhead
next to Pagans and Christians dancing arm in arm
where Jee-Zus is crucified at the Apex [that place
of secret decisions] high in the firmaments
hidden beneath corrugated cosmic sheathes privy
only to those gods jealous of Promethean ingenuity
in a Catholic universe. For we know well that
NOTHING for men or gods is truly sacred despite
sanctimonious pretensions—especially an Art
dedicated to stripping icons of their halos.