Michelangelo: To Giovanni da Pistoia
When the Author was Painting
The Vault of the Sistine Chapel
by Gail Mazur
Iíve already grown a goiter from this torture,
hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy
(or anywhere else where the stagnant waterís poison).
My stomachís squashed under my chin, my beardís
pointing at heaven, my brainís crushed in a casket,
my breast twists like a harpyís. My brush,
above me all the time, dribbles paint
so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!
My haunches are grinding into my guts,
my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
My skin hangs loose below me, my spineís
All knotted from folding over itself.
Iím bent taut as a Syrian bow.
Because Iím stuck like this, my thoughts
are crazy, perfidious tripe:
anyone shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.
My painting is dead.
Defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honor.
I am not in the right placeóI am not a painter.
Copyright © by Gail Mazur. This poem is from They Canít Take That Away From Me, University of Chicago Press, 2001. Reprinted with permission.