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This article is taken from PN Review 248, Volume 45 Number 6, July - August 2019.

Les Murray In Memoriam
The Portrait Head
In Memory of Les Murray
The Portrait Head
for Jonathan Hirschfeld

Les Portrait Head

Les Portrait Head

IMAGE
‘Les’s Portrait Head’
© Jonathan Hirschfeld, 1993

How many Jews may have pioneered sculpture under Pharaoh's knout; how atheism is sometimes a greater strictness about the Second Commandment - ideas the massed green Tuileries heard us stroll with, amid family lore, values by Worth, and fooleries pooped after your third session of translating my head into clay
preparatory to bronze. Not as Nature will do it someday.

Your intent travel through my features, transposing them to wet, had half detached me from them. But I wouldn't start a new set in that late headhunting capital. We came then to a netting-and-lath builders’ yard full of pedestals, giant jardinères, torsoed wrath, marble nymphs acid-eaten to plaster, bare matte heroes standing whitely to reason, or weeping into their elbows.

It was so forlorn we couldn't help grinning. Poor cracked discards of the ambient gloire, removed and stacked. Did all universals, still expounding themselves with a clenched, didactic or flat upsloped hand, get trucked there when retrenched, to be one with lopped heads, trophies of arms, carven terebinths?
There were no portraits in that corral of plinths.

No gargoyles either. Leaf-roofed, walled in high iron bars, the grand dank gardens released us by a river of cars streaming and cross-eddying, with sunk water in stanzas between. Itching from the Shakespeare bookshop, I paused. Evolution seen end ...


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