“More like the sitter than the sitter herself,”
Raphael declared of a Lippi Madonna.
The living may seek their own perfection
but never find, the painter implied,
the way a mother cannot hold a child
close enough to keep it from all harm
though that be a woman’s deepest desire.
The sun would never glare in her child’s eye,
for she? She would never turn away.
But Maria, Madonna’s model, is hungry
and imagining pears, with none like
herself seeing herself in any way
than what she is, at least in her own eyes.
Where else would art find its light
to launch itself above our shade
than in a beauty bound to be nevermore,
with nothing else like it when it lived?
Lines etch themselves beneath our eyes.
Art though in lines finds no such doom
once freed from the tomb of the artist’s hands.
It photoshops a shadow in the blank march
of days that flicker by us on our way,
a flock of birds frozen in the sky,
a sun blinding us by other means.
Sometimes we see the fatty hand of art
loom over the hand, or a portrait
not with the gait of any man that lived,
a limp counterfeit of humanity,
as Hamlet says. Sometimes we awake
to find we’ve been actors in our own skin.
That’s when death or love throws out art,
and we find ourselves sitting in a park
on a cold slab crying hot tears,
a sad clown, our mascara dripping,
or frozen like a stone, freed by death
from having to act another’s part.
Will we care then if nobody comes by
to offer a word, remark on how we look,
place a flower just so turned to the light?
It could be a common one, not even bought,
a violet plucked from a garden where a crow
seemed to mock our hand for its secret theft.
This poem previously published by Levure Littéraire.
Anthony DiMatteo's recent poems and reviews have sprouted in the Cortland Review, Hunger Mountain, Los Angeles Review, Verse Daily, and Waccamaw. His current book of poems In Defense of Puppets has been hailed as, "a rare collection, establishing a stunningly new poetic and challenging the traditions that DiMatteo (as Renaissance scholar) claims give the poet 'the last word."(Cider Press Review).
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