The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, 1830
– after the painting by Paul Delaroche 1795-1856
The irrefutable luminance of her dress
is almost too much on the eyes.
If the executioner focuses on her nape,
the axe could hesitate there.
She feels the bole pressed to her cheek.
She becomes the stump of wood,
dead oak which once stood in sight
of stars. Stars quicken and quiver
there against perfect black.
The quest of black – from flesh of girl
to golden splinters. As for the axe,
the blade has its own agenda.
(originally published in Heliotrope #8, Spokane: April 2005)
Samson and Delilah, 1608
– after the painting by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Delilah touches his brawny shoulders.
She tells herself she merely dreams.
No, he’s not slumped in her lap, in deceit.
Hours before: rack of lamb and red wine,
her reaching over to touch his hair
and his taking her hand to kiss the lines.
The heart line’s continuum, the life line
bifurcated at the center. And now,
her maid hovers over them. Candlelight
steadies. In the threshold, three soldiers.
The sickle-shaped locks falling away.
(originally published in Ekphrasis Vol. 5, No. 2, Sacramento: September 2009)
Notre-Dame De Paris
My final night in Paris we meet at the bookstore across from the Notre-Dame – its south front side with rose window radial petals tracery and spire We buy Falafel from a street vender beers for ten francs and walk across to the west two-tower facade – its entire face having been forced white with pressure-washing – to dine on the Seine quay Our backs to the twins and spire toward the sun tired over the river Because passers-by do not notice us no one cares to know our names or wonders if this will be our last meal or how when I’m saying good-bye it feels like I had just formed hello in my mouth Afterwards we get ice cream (white chocolate and cassis for me because he suggests it) We find another place to sit along the quay – the north-east side of the church still drab with soot and diesel And I think to myself maybe they’ll get around to it someday years of Paris dropping into the Seine and that’s when he tells me – how with ALS he’ll likely be dead in five years dead before thirty and as I have lived barely thirty years all I can do is look out over the river and consider those rose windows and their transoms – how they’re actually squared-off-intercepted-circles I say nothing Nothing when he rolls up his sleeves to expose truant muscles nothing Nothing even when he asks if we can hold each other tonight share a bed and holding on to what holds us Holding to that one moment when I look onto that cathedral unable to decide if I’m Beauty or Beast
(originally published in Quarter After Eight #14, Athens, OH: March 2008)
Portrait of Mona Lisa, 1503
– after the painting by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
The pink from head and neck
has sunk into her hands –
one atop the other on the armrest.
The eyes behind bulletproof
Perspex look everywhere.
The landscape: haunted austere abutment
and a snaking dirt road leading
O Mourning One,
most of us will not know such woe:
the way you grew your child,
the birthing hours on.
When she was just four…. Well,
what we know of her death
is only your grief,
sfumatoed in black veil.
And so defiantly:
a camera flash bulb.
This trips the mechanical partition.
It lowers from a ceiling panel
over you. For one half hour:
there behind that impenetrable screen.
are spared your weeping.
(originally published in Mona Poetica Anthology, May Apple Press, 2005)