Camera degli Sposi (The Bridal Chamber)
--ceiling fresco, Andrea Mantegna, 1474
Afterwards, we lie on the bed,
limbs flung wide, my kirtle, his doppieto
on the floor, tangled with the wedding
silks, our sweaty bodies far apart,
breathing hard, but not in unison.
The ceiling above me is a painted balustrade
around a painted hole, a painted sky
strewn with painted clouds.
It’s like being at the bottom of a well.
Outside, it could be raining—
lightning, thunder, stars darkening,
but in this room the sky is always blue.
What a crowd up there around the edge—
all those merry cherubs, a dark man in a turban,
several women staring, even a bird.
I feel like I should cover up.
The cherubs have fat, creased thighs,
stubby little penises. The man cocks
his head. The bird gazes at the clouds,
as if overtaken by yearning.
Below, on rumpled sheets
of fine-woven linen, I touch his shoulder.
That bird, I ask, is it a pheasant?
He looks, rolls away from me.
Idiota, he says, it’s a peacock.
I want to stroke the soft hair
curling at the back of his neck
but I don’t dare. Instead I look up.
On the balustrade
between two women, is a heavy tub
filled with greenery, balanced
on the very edge.
From Fugitive Pigments (2013, FutureCycle Press)