Benvenuto Tisi’s Vestal Virgin Claudia Quinta
Pulling a Boat with the Statue of Cybele
[a painting at the Palazzo Barberini in Rome]
A solid quarter
of it is blotted burnt umber
for the hull, a scripted curve, as if color
bricked over and over
could send a sailboat blowing from the canvas as matter.
shipping the goddess from a backwater
then setting her up here.
And I’m the golden retriever.
Eyeballed from behind, female with yellow hair
contending with a hawser.
Manifestly unafraid to show my rear.
“Sip antiquity from my spot on the Tiber!”
Daylight buzzing like an amphitheater.
Not everyone is born to be a master.
He did sketch Michael roosting with his sword
on the grave of the Roman emperor
in perspectival miniature,
echo of the statue in the fore.
More on her later,
all the eunuchs and bees you can muster.
If you had to name the gesture
of the frontman with the beard
and frock of a Church Father
gaping at me from the future,
you could do worse than basta—hands perpendicular
to the ground, each white palm a semaphore,
head tilted halfway between concern
and something he won’t declare.
To all the girls Bernini loved before
I’d say, caveat emptor.
The deathless ars
longa, vita brevis guys will have me clutch a carved
toy boat but this provincial follower
of Raphael goes for the ocean liner.
Reality’s my kind of metaphor.
The heavens circulate with the times on the far
horizon and I don’t have anywhere
to be except this unambiguous shore.
Happy Friday, pals! To kick off the weekend, here’s a painting pairing that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I make my way through Jana Prikyrl’s The After Party. Here’s an interesting interview she did about this poem.