Geoffrey Chaucer
The Sculptor's Tale

Playing the clay
sometimes gave him
cramp in his hands,
but there was more
freedom in the mould
than in the firing.
Days on his own,
folding and reshaping
the bust of his own head.
For a long time
he couldn't shape
his own nose,
the angle just wasn't right,
the tip too bulbous,
the nostrils always flared,
like a bull's.
He devoted most time
to his hair, and that
needed to be just so.
His own head was sparkling
and without follicles,
But the bust was larger than life,
it had to speak
as if the model had no voice,
sing with a tenor's true warble.
It had to show his final form,
and so its hair had to be perfect.
The locks intricate and precise,
the curls flowing,
As if netted in a breeze.
The parting so straight
It could be a tool
for architects to wonder at.
In short, the hair
became heir to mastery,
In the mould, at least.
For firing took the edge from it.
It diminished and receded,
like his hairline.
In truth,
it became ordinary,
just like the sculptor.
Never a more truthful
representation of the past
had been cast in bronze,
but the gold was lost,
in the flashing and filings.

Geoffrey Chaucer, English poet and author, died on this day in 1400.

Pablo Picasso, Spanish artist, was born today in 1881.

Zadie Smith, English novelist and writer, was born today in 1975.

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