The Round Room. Almost overlooked Victorian
passions, pastimes, pastels – the stucco sentiment,
the pride of steam, the brotherhoods. In the centre,
Lucifer in bronze, Epstein’s metal fused
with difference – great wars have beaten out
the alloy, have taken up a mythic that is
brutish, new and sexual. A future, and a past.
The space is here for gathering, an entrance,
and a place to meet. This day, the first of many
schools have gathered beneath the startled wings.
The hands afraid to touch; the careful foot that takes
a step; the nakedness that knows no shame.
Eager girls are warned about their task, the need
to have a watch on time, the mobile phones
that may not see the light of art or day.
They’ve hours to spend with sketches, in their
badges, blazers, blue shirts, neat school ties.
A later party comes, they’re older – boys
with phones – girls who huddle, smirking.
Their teacher gathers them below the pinioned
gaze. Her German accent is refined and taut.
“You’re here to seek the stories of your past.”
She offers them a city gallery’s diaspora
of Cultures, Faiths and Races. They’re eager
for their liberty and swirl away. We talk – one teacher
to another. “My little ones would love the art in here –
but these just don’t care,” she says. Not having
any Group to organise, I’m on the side of hope.
Three lads are posing for their phones
with Lucifer, their temporary friend. “Don’t give up
on them. They’ve found a moment to engage!”
We laugh, exchange farewells, and disappear
in search of falling light, of favourites lost,
of pictures taken, slow becoming oaks.
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery – January 2019