Abrasion

On the Colossus of Rhodes there was a deep and multi-laced abrasion, the scored imprint on its inner ankle that led to many tales, and one must have been truth – or close to it – though in that great marble leg and silent stance akimbo no clue remained to prove or deny the several myths that arose to justify it. When Chares of Lindos described the Colossus, he left no doubt as to its might; he boasted even that the statue would be indestructible, indelible; eternal, to boot. But he was wrong about that.

It could have been the secret too thick to bear for his narrow, muscular shoulders. Even as an old man the thin wires of his physique wove through him like ship lines, sawing and grinding away beneath his sun-blackened, age-sore and -spotted skin, almost ringing like rigging when his bare back twisted from side to side as he molded the model out of clay, on his potter’s wheel, his thin, adamantine arms working frantic, and faster, in time with his screechy voice. Chares liked to sing while he worked. And though the long-throated speeches of the democrats boomed, their rhetorical commands suited in prim, owlish brocades, Chares was not of their skein. He was pulled from another cloth altogether, ragged, never wistful, allying himself with neither the cynics nor the stoics, nor, though it was supposed, the epicureans (how a scrawny, bitter Chares ever was tossed into the annals’ sorting bin with that brutally gladsome lot is as indelibly curious as the Colossus’ collapse was finally inescapable), but subscribed to no great passage of thought but his own unceasing will.

That will demanded the Colossus. Make no mistake, that will built the colossus, bar by planted bar, bronze and marble flesh upon flesh. In the clanging and hammering, sawing, swinging, bellows for more, cracks of whips (doubtless, there were whips), and beaded brows was the coursing light of Chares, even after he drowned himself in Rhodes’ harbor. Some say that light was brightest after the old man was gone, his body the only encumbrance to a spirit mad with the limitations of earth’s might. So he went to the gods, some say, to build for them the gates of Olympus that keep even human thought out. Why else do we no longer think on the gods, or invoke their blessing across the seas or into troublesome lands?

But that abrasion on the Colossus’ ankle is still a mystery. It appeared not long after the great statue’s completion, like a scar portending the greater lashing to come, or the careless stride of Helios crossing within some nettle bush. Half a century later, when the Colossus, taken down at the knees and half-submerged in the harbor, its shoulders and head beached like some stone grimacing whale, the feet still bestrode the waters, and that mark remained.

Some expected the climactic crack to reveal some new meaning for the great scratch; there was yet more to know about this wonder that outshined each like man-made architecture of antiquity. But Helios lay silent on his beach, and Chares, on the harbor’s bottom, did not rise. Some expected such miracles.

I have seen no miracle since that statue framed the sky.

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