(Madonna of Saint Matthew - Annibale Carracci)
Wings beat and the curtains over my throne are lifted
toward the approaching evening. I try to read,
but the reformed publican must record, ever record.
The child startles as Nature's Saint kisses his feet.
Perhaps his wounds will heal now. How rough his garment.
He is old, long travelled, and tired. Even John, who points
for you the way, looks tired. We are all tired - uncomfortable.
Why do we not rest?
When they go, the curtains must be drawn. The child will sleep
and I will descend from this cold marble pedestal to find comfort
in my book.
(Il Giorno – Correggio)
Since the birth of this child, I am beset with angels.
I hear them almost continually. They are always here, singing
playing, showing the baby all manner of wonders.
My days begin to merge and I see the child growing before me
the future coming to visit. All the Marys of the world
want my child. To touch, to hold, to feel the magic.
I try to keep my virgin look but fail knowing I look like other
virgins who will not face the enquiring eye. Jerome will, I know
say my virginity will last forever but I do not understand this.
He seems kindly and does much reading and writing.
The angel holds the book for my child who is not ready yet but
who points toward the words. I look away. I do not understand
this book which is not written yet. It is an angel's book.
Mary does not want to leave. There will always be Marys at his feet.
(The Doni Tondo – Michelangelo)
Within a family circle, my child makes his first descent.
Behind us, the bay lies still. Blue hills fade
into a day of naked men who idle by the closed fountain.
The stone slab divides our lonely brilliance from them.
Young John watches us from the other side of the wall.
He will tell his parents. One can see him forming the words
and memorising the movement of others.
The child places his hands on my braids. I look up
holding my arms out for him, fingers softened by the skin
of his back and leg. My earth-husband, the earth-father
holds him: supporting us both.
I have read all that I need to read of gifts from the closed
book in the folds of my lap.
(The Canigiani Holy Family - Raphael)
See, they are playing with the gold ribbon I use as a bookmark.
What made me look up? Was it something they said?
How Elizabeth talks. She loves to come here.
To sit in the grass - to have our boys play together
to talk to my patient man who listens - however long.
He will shift his feet, as the sun moves and the colours deepen
to lean a little heavier on his staff. I do not need to turn my head
to know he will alter not his gaze or let fatigue creep into his look
even though she will continue till the evening is pitcher dry.
No, it wasn't Elizabeth, or the children. They do not heed me either.
They play with my gold ribbon sharing the delight of its colour.
How much can be conjured from a ribbon to make stories for the future.
How serious they are.
No, it wasn't Elizabeth, or the children. It was the word in my ear
on my page. The afternoon air; the words on the page, and the voice
in my ear.
I look out at the life around me; hold the book open with my finger,