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The Smile on the Face of a Kouros

Written by: William Bronk | Biography
 This boy, of course, was dead, whatever that
might mean. And nobly dead. I think we should feel 
he was nobly dead. He fell in battle, perhaps, 
and this carved stone remembers him 
not as he may have looked, but as if to define
the naked virtue the stone describes as his. 
One foot is forward, the eyes look out, the arms
drop downward past the narrow waist to hands 
hanging in burdenless fullness by the heavy flanks. 
The boy was dead, and the stone smiles in his death 
lightening the lips with the pleasure of something achieved:
an end. To come to an end. To come to death 
as an end. And coming, bring there intact, the full 
weight of his strength and virtue, the prize with which 
his empty hands are full. None of it lost, 
safe home, and smile at the end achieved. 
Now death, of which nothing as yet - or ever - is known,
leaves us alone to think as we want of it, 
and accepts our choice, shaping the life to the death.
Do we want an end? It gives us; and takes what we give 
and keeps it; and has, this way, in life itself, 
a kind of treasure house of comely form 
achieved and left with death to stay and be 
forever beautiful and whole, as if 
to want too much the perfect, unbroken form 
were the same as wanting death, as choosing death
for an end. There are other ways; we know the way 
to make the other choice for death: unformed 
or broken, less than whole, puzzled, we live 
in a formless world. Endless, we hope for no end.
I tell you death, expect no smile of pride
from me. I bring you nothing in my empty hands.