Rudolph Thiem, Sculptor
Look at this hall tree!
Around the bright mirror
dark wood, worked,
carved by your own hands
a hundred years ago.
Great grandpa, your hall piece
was delivered to my door today.
Berliner, artist, emigrant,
you came as a young man,
first to New Orleans, then Ohio.
Your carvings and castings adorn
stoves, battlefields, cathedrals.
Your likenesses of kings
and of cotton workers
tell of a fellow-feeling
ample as Whitman's.
A Union soldier cast in bronze,
your magnum opus,
taller than three men.
weighing two tons,
towers even now
over Hamilton, Ohio.
Few know, none see
that you gave a common soldier
the outlines of your own face.
You, an uncommon man
who ate dessert before dinner
overthrew artistic conventions
taught your son's wife how to cook
let the King of Saxony watch you work
turned your living room into a tropical jungle
welcomed President Taft when he came to thank you
fed your grandson 20 kinds of candy when his parents were away.
Dad adored you,
slept in your bed,
babbled after you "Ach, Ach"
when you broke a tool.
He was six when you died.
Seventy years later
his memories of you
are fresh and delicate.
I have your chisels and gouges.
I have your plant stand made of oak.
I have the child's cane carved of strange wood.
And now the hall tree,
delivered to my door today,
with great beveled mirror,
bronze pegs to hold the hats of yesteryear,
exotic foliage unknown to any tree,
the articulate leaf swelling into flame,
curling out of scrolls in bas relief,
the daintiness of frond and stipple,
flower, seashell, leaf and snail,
petaled roundel, knob and nipple,
each figure slyly emulating others
in a happy round of theme and variation.
Of my forefathers
you are the only one
among blacksmiths, miners, grocers,
engineers, accountants, corporation men,
the only one I know
who gave his life to beauty.
They delivered the hall tree to me, oldest
of your seven great-grandchildren,
and here it stands
work of art
mirror of the world --
yes, it has come to me
and to me alone.
For more information on Rudolph Thiem, visit rudolphthiem.weebly.com