The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 16 no. 1


Tim Liardet


After Max Ernst’s “Sculpture of the Capricorn”


It is a tall gate. And will need to be opened.
We cannot go round, and must go through.
Cast in bronze, the gatekeepers stop us dead
by taking away our choice, then our power.
Clearly the minotaur father, rod in hand,
has decreed he must be loved and obeyed.
His wife is strange, is willowy—her ostrich neck soars
until she must surely be light-headed,
half feminine Olive Oyl, half mermaid, staring at her tail.
There is repose—frog-daughter on knee.
The gate, if that’s what they are, is their conspiracy.

They are the gate. And it is half ajar.
They stare through us—rigid in bronze—oddly lovable
but disturbing, too disturbing to love;
too disturbing, too self-possessed, to stare down.
If she wears a hair-pin, he is helmeted,
and what can we possibly find in them
of ourselves, you in the bleary luster
of the bull-king’s reflection, me in the mermaid’s?
We are the flesh, it seems, of their bronze,
about to step into the territory they defend.
I feel a sudden need to take hold of your hand.