Sunday, February 11, 2018

Michelangelo's poem

On the train back from Manhattan, the magazine in the seat-pocket had an article about the drummer Questlove. He had written a book, which the magazine described this way:

"he's put all that he's learned about inspiration into a new book, ... which is packed with patient, deliberate breadcrumbs intended to help people get unstuck creatively."

What an interesting way to describe a self-help book, "deliberate breadcrumbs".

It was a lovely day that started in Baltimore with the view from the train window: occasional coastlines, bridges, towns, and bare trees. We saw the sun rise, red horizon above the water. Outside of Philly, a group of rowers synchronized their colorful paddles as we crossed a bridge. One of those brief moments that leaves a picture in your memory.

I walked over to the cafe car and got us some tea. It felt wonderful holding it warm in my hands. Breakfast was cheese and tomato sandwiches that I brought, along with butter and jam sandwiches that my mom brought.

We arrived in Penn Station and took the metro to Central Park, then walked across the park to the Met. We met my daughter (and her friend) there, who surprised me with a box of macaroons, and my mom surprised her with two small paintings that she had bought on her recent trip to Iran.

This was the last weekend for the Michelangelo exhibit, so it was crowded. But the crowds were kind, and polite, as we inevitably ran into each other in front of this drawing or that. I reveled in the myriad of languages that I heard, so many ways to say "wow", followed by something that I couldn't understand.

The exhibit was all about Michelangelo’s "studies", drawings that he had made before he painted or sculpted the final piece. Almost all of them in pencil or another monochrome tool.

Because the pieces were studies, if you looked close, there was a story there, depicting a day in his life, some 600 years ago. On one of those days, he started with a piece of paper and drew a man, fully clothed, sitting, with detail that looked as though the drawing itself was chiseled in stone. Then he turned the paper around, and now doodled, drawing another man, this one naked, standing. Finally, he used the rest of the paper to write a poem.

How can it be, Lady, as one can see,
from long experience, that the live image,
sculpted in the hard alpine stone, lasts longer
than its maker, whom the years return to ashes?