The bus goes backward into the 19th century, clip clop. We get off and into the cold arms of statues honoring that perspective: thick legs, short necks, huge rears, and many wings. Mufti is marble lace. Where’s Mom? is my mission, which figure best expresses this century’s grieving? Nothing personal, just something that can be copied. Or maybe grieving in general is dated, I say in front of the life-size man with his arms thrown around a coffin lid.
My husband’s camera is capturing every angeled grave for later manipulation. Not your grieving, he says. He’s pointing his viewfinder at a mariner’s wife holding a single paddle.
It’s all about you, I say, such a sailor. I walk, annoyed, down a corridor of patriarchs. I would get lost here, in minutes, without him. In Italy, right angles are those that are correct. Grey as a pigeon, grey as a city gets, these white marble cheeks of babies so grey with dust, these marble people about to sign a pact with God—here Time is grey, Space is what?
Click, click, my husband’s camera closes in. The Pieta’s not for your mom, he says. You can almost see genitals.
What’s at stake? ask the crucifix ends pointed sharp in accusation, I say to myself, not him. Is it Love, the tit Mom held and withheld? The love the dove beaks?
Now I’m walking over the confetti kids in costume throw for weeks here, carnivaling as if they were dying tomorrow. Okay, a stray-confetti-kind-of-love, I decide. I search the middle class slats, the dead on shelves. Why not love and money? say these ten-high crypts.
My husband’s nowhere in sight. If I call out, my voice will echo. But the search is mine, a where’s Waldo of personal matchup. Not too sad, not Dad on his tractor saluting Mom as dirt. I spot my husband at the end of a row where lots of dirt lies mounded, the site waiting for its marble. You can walk between the rubble—he does—snapping. The sky everywhere invites the eye away from the rubble, or the stern salute of an angel way behind it so like my mother I know Dad won’t pay to have it copied. Too bad.
My feet can’t be felt, marble cold. Another pigeon walks across what little lawn pokes up and his feet look tenuous too. Don’t walk anymore, that’s it, fly to the billboard about gambling angled over the mourners, some of us in pink to match it.
My husband doesn’t know what to make of my search, just as I don’t get all his photo-taking. Preservation? Grey arms and legs, widows sobbing, brave dogs and an angel holding open the crypt like Wait a minute—I’m left cold. I’m not finding any Not-too-religious (my preference) or not-nude (Dad’s) here. Even the angels wear skimpy veils, proclaim flesh. It’s Italy.
The train that zooms over an arch in the distance could be futurist, time chopped to brief intervals by war, by European machines and their energy, the kind I need to find in a loop of light, god-in-a-glow. An answer.
Summoned to an atelier of graves, where a worker marble-dusted cuts dates, we get told nobody carves anymore, you have to get a statue poured. Resin and marble dust. All they have is dust. Unless, they almost don’t say, you pay an artist.
I was thinking an artist, I say.
They don’t know any.
The rare bird, not pigeon but artist, alights only on the heads of marble further south where it’s quarried. The Chinese copy everything otherwise. That’s why searching for sculpture online is a waste of time, the Chinese copy it.
Sex is all that’s left, not death, I say to my happy clicking husband. Nudes or fey abstraction. Really? we whimper, we again, he with his camera filled with what no one will ever bother to see, forever undownloaded, and me wondering—what am I wanting to mark?
My love for Dad, my striving to get Mom to love me, that trickle that’s dry for good now, that impulse can at last be whatever I make it. It can wash me. And all this dirty marble will gleam.
I won’t be cold in my little time left.
Where’s Waldo? asks the poster in English from the bus. How can we get him back?
Don’t ask about Paganini, my husband says. Cement pillars! A dome! Nymphs! His family had to keep him in the basement for five years because he refused the sacrament.
It’s an idea.