Michelangelo Contemplates His Last Pietà
Michelangelo carved three pietàs depicting Mary cradling the lifeless body of Jesus with utmost care and tenderness – divine motherly love. He worked on the last of these for some 14 years, the Rondanini, until his death at the age of 88.
Florentine winter. Nights
cold as the stone. Days so
short and damp, my chilled fingers
struggle to hold chisel and hammer.
There is still work to do because
one must always work. But different work,
for oneself, not for commission, not,
foremost, for public admiration,
although there is always a public. I no
longer work to draw out the fine
features of visage, the taut lines of muscle,
ligaments, bone, to make the stone
flow and drape – it’s no longer necessary.
This is necessary: to descend behind
the apparent thing, find the deeper shape
of this dwindling life before the promised life
everlasting. Not yet a ghost. A pre-ghost.
The Virgin’s beauty faded, her arms barely
strong enough to support a fatigued slab,
face indiscernible, limbs languid as wet reeds,
nakedness shapeless as the air, except the winced
and useless membrum, a reminder of youth deflated
and utterly lost. She does not carry me
so much as hold me up, as best I can be
held in this decrepit state, to walk me
toward my destiny, certain but incomplete.
A native of Buffalo, New York and a graduate of Kenyon College, Jonathan Cohen lives in Norwalk, Connecticut. Several of his poems have appeared or are pending in Stone Poetry Quarterly, I-70 Review, Great Lakes Review, Amethyst Review, and Cider Press Review. He studies with Jon Davis.
The Ekphrastic Review
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