That Damn Cupid

...who or which is the main topic of this site
in any season, let alone this one in the Northern hemisphere,
as the hormones stir a young man's fancy
and an old man's mind...

It's difficult I find, being a poet, and a scientist by training -
you want finality in the experimental results
but you love the constant mystery and beauty of the world,
never quite reached, never quite expressed.

Take this Cupid. Not the actual one,
but the head of Eros, Venus' very active young assistant
obviously under general orders
but with a very free remit under his blindfold -
or so it seems to us who don't get to see
the universal script if such there be.

He's one of the few 'archaic' treasures of Greek art
neatly plundered for the British Museum
in circumstances not to be enquired into -
'saved for civilisation' would be the spin -
but a winged messenger to this house
in no small way.
Which brings the whole matter of the non-material
into question. And which is what some scientists
find a challenge, others try hard to deny with cold facts.

To get to the point. The beloved point.
A reproduction of this little chap
in a mixture of polysomething and marble dust
sits on the table by the window here,
I'm looking at it now. Why do I know
that it's not just anyone's baby, baby,
but Eros himself? (Venus, note, is a mature woman,
Cupid just an innocent (ha!) child...)

The problem, O scientists,
the blessing, O poets,
is that his expression, his intention dammit,
is never the same two seconds together;
and, always two seconds ahead of what
I'm thinking now he's up to...
he's always up to something
and he knows I know it...
and don't exactly know what
and I'm two seconds after him, all the time...

For instance, right now
before I wrote this, I thought it would be good
to give him a wipe.
He submitted to it with the closed eyes of a child
just old enough to submit to having his face wiped
without screwing up his face into a performance;
a beautiful, gentle submission
(for once; first time I've seen him look like this) :
now already, he's up to something - the corner of his mouth
on one side has a mischievous little thought (or maybe not so little)
playing around it; while his eyes are resting within himself
in a meditation on pure wisdom, it seems

(just a second, let me check on him,
you can't leave him for a moment)

aha! that's his game - the sculptor
who trapped him, or thought he'd trapped him -
no - was trapped by him! has seen two sides to his face:
the left side would pass for a meditating Buddha, almost;
almost blind, unknowing, unjudging of all worldly actions;
the right side has an up-to-something muscle-pull
at the corner of the mouth and cheek and eye
which gives that side of his face a look of active goodwill;
put the two sides together, and ha! it looks like mischief;
but more like the divine mischief of Krishna
sporting with his cowgirls.

Is all this the moving theatre of my fantasising mind?
Left and right lobes of the brain in see-saw mode?
I think not. Ikons are famously said to play this game
with the devotee; outer portrayal drawing out one's inner truth;
and here's this Cupid, more alive than I am, I suspect...
allowing me, who have acquired him/been acquired by him,
to watch him as he makes the whole world go round
and conquers all.

But as to warning you in advance
what he's up to with your erotic stirrings this fine Spring morning,
all I can tell you is
he's always on duty; always hatching some new divine mischief;
and I'm always two seconds late in catching his newest
cast
of mind..

by Michael Shepherd

Comments (4)

Sorry, further comment: the best 'twists in the end' are those that are not planned but, as with sonnets and haiku and short stories, arrive of themselves at the end. Anything planned become journalism...
Well, Gyppo, as Gert Stein said to me, 'A poem is too long for you if you are too short for the poem...' I'm a novice too, and I just write until I've said what I think needs to be said, and then I stop... and the 'twist' in the end which arrived right out of the blue as I (didn't) write it, is that I'm describing what is essentially and paradoxically, a cast (resin) of mind... and also one of the great periods of world art, when statues come alive and you converse with them (which is what art intends) . Seldom acknowledged in this materialist age. Look - prose is even longer than a too-long poem! Maybe that says something. But thanks for the reminder. Readers don't have all day like poets do.
I thought this quite intriguing and was waiting for a twist at the end. What inspired it? I'm wondering if it might be a tad long though? Can a poem be too long? I ask this as a novice not a critic.
Michael, I'm a little envious here. All I see is a statue. Your incredible. Rusty