The intact facade's now almost black in the rain; all day they've torn at the back of the building, "the oldest concrete structure in New England," the newspaper said. By afternoon, when the backhoe claw appears above three stories of columns and cornices,
the crowd beneath their massed umbrellas cheer. Suddenly the stairs seem to climb down themselves, atomized plaster billowing: dust of 1907's rooming house, this year's bake shop and florist's, the ghosts of their signs faint above the windows lined, last week, with loaves and blooms.
We love disasters that have nothing to do with us: the metal scoop seems shy, tentative, a Japanese monster tilting its yellow head and considering what to topple next. It's a weekday, and those of us with the leisure to watch are out of work, unemployable or academics,
joined by a thirst for watching something fall. All summer, at loose ends, I've read biographies, Wilde and Robert Lowell, and fallen asleep over a fallen hero lurching down a Paris boulevard, talking his way to dinner or a drink, unable to forget the vain and stupid boy
he allowed to ruin him. And I dreamed I was Lowell, in a manic flight of failing and ruthless energy, and understood how wrong I was with a passionate exactitude which had to be like his. A month ago, at Saint-Gauden's house, we ran from a startling downpour
into coincidence: under a loggia built for performances on the lawn hulked Shaw's monument, splendid in its plaster maquette, the ramrod-straight colonel high above his black troops. We crouched on wet gravel and waited out the squall; the hieratic woman
-- a wingless angel? -- floating horizontally above the soldiers, her robe billowing like plaster dust, seemed so far above us, another century's allegorical decor, an afterthought who'd never descend to the purely physical soldiers, the nearly breathing bronze ranks crushed
into a terrible compression of perspective, as if the world hurried them into the ditch. "The unreadable," Wilde said, "is what occurs." And when the brutish metal rears above the wall of unglazed windows -- where, in a week, the kids will skateboard
in their lovely loops and spray their indecipherable ideograms across the parking lot -- the single standing wall seems Roman, momentarily, an aqueduct, all that's left of something difficult to understand now, something Oscar
and Bosie might have posed before, for a photograph. Aqueducts and angels, here on Main, seem merely souvenirs; the gaps where the windows opened once into transients' rooms are pure sky. It's strange how much more beautiful
the sky is to us when it's framed by these columned openings someone meant us to take for stone. The enormous, articulate shovel nudges the highest row of moldings and the whole thing wavers as though we'd dreamed it, our black classic, and it topples all at once.