The Caravaggio Room
“Yuck,” you heave in front of that sick boy
with the gray face. “Bacchus, my ass,” you say.
“Caravaggio’s,” I say. And so you smile,
grimly. And, larger, floating
in blacker, emptier spaces, the head
of Goliath, his adolescent killer delicately disgusted
by what we know, what they knew
who paid for it, is the artist’s own likeness.
Ah! here’s the huge Madonna
dei Palafrenieri where the Virgin has her bare foot
on a serpent’s neck, leaning, looking,
demonstrating a mildly unpleasant task.
And below his slung and guiding spearpoint penis
is the child’s foot on her foot, taking
instruction, learning young,
the writhing snake already
calligraphy of defeat.
“Oh, look,” you say, “golden wires!”–such
thin halos round the women’s heads, the Virgin’s
and her mother’s, perfunctory, paid for,
we guess—but none, nothing remotely divine
to mark the mortally naked boy.
Along the farther wall St. Jerome, an old man
working, stylus in hand, eyes close to the page, and next
the Baptist’s unmuscled body,
languorous, the body
of a catamite, candid eyes
aimed right at you—I mean at Caravaggio.
This John’s positioned directly across the room
from the sickening boy.
And suddenly we see
between them, in the room’s cube of air,
that some curatorial wit has placed in our space
a frolicking imperial Satyr, intact except for
his token of membership
in the honest world of paganism.
Let’s get the hell out of here.
I need a Negroni
and a long, slow taste
of your salty flesh.
|Ron Smith’s book of poems Its Ghostly Workshop is forthcoming from Louisiana State University Press. His Moon Road: Poems 1986-2005 appeared from LSU in 2007. The title poem of his first book, Running Again in Hollywood Cemetery (1988), was reprinted in Southern Poetry Review and in the anthology Don’t Leave Hungry (2009) from University of Arkansas Press. Smith is the winner of the Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize, the Guy Owen Award from Southern Poetry Review, and the Theodore Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest and has published poems in many magazines and anthologies, including The Nation, The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Shenandoah, New England Review, Helen Vender’s most recent edition of Poems, Poets, Poetry (3rd ed., 2010) and The Poets of the Sala Capizucchi (2011), the latter published in Italian and English by University of New Orleans and, in Italy, by Raffaelli Editore. Ron Smith’s critical prose can be found in The Georgia Review, Blackbird, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere.|