which mayhap brings me back to Byzantium & "walking through the pictures". This is from "My Byzantium" (you may have seen it before. . .):


On Valentine's Day on my lunch break
I walked down the hill to the School of Design
to see the Crucifixion with Two Thieves
by the Master of the Providence Crucifixion (Dutch, circa

After 500 years the colors still bright as a dream.
Jerusalem in the background, strange towers of mauve, beige,
violet, the high walls flecked with scrawny trees
(no goldfinch near), the line of horsemen
in blue Martian armor (or Flemish 1400's) appearing
out of a crevice in the pale
green, springlike fields

and surrounding the crosses,
crowding the stage, the gray horses, their necks
like tensile steel with unknowing beast grins,
the fop soldiers and gawking onlookers, the boy
(or dwarf?) reining in the horses for the lords
staring in gratified excitement
at the three hung men, a swordsman
(realistic touch) ready to hack at the calves
of the thief on the left - the three men
of exactly the same build, only
Jesus more deathly pale, calm, as if asleep.

In the foreground Mary faints, weeping
(like the women outside the execution arena
in Afghanistan today, NY Times 2.14.96),
her arms hollowing, ready to become
a bronze Pietà; two of the soldiers
peer sidelong out of the picture frame,
but John and the Magdalen look you in the eye
out of hell, still, out of 1450.

Beside the Crucifixion a little gilded wooden niche -
relic, even older (Italian, 1250 or so, hand
of Lippo Memmi) – a blonde in a red cloak,
sky-blue undergarment, holds a little casket
(myrrh-box? urn?) and gazes with almond eyes
from under her hood at me,
the blush on her cheeks still faintly there,
her look still veiled and distant, yet looking, still


(A little further down the hill below the museum
you in the yellow t-shirt under a black sweatshirt
circle the gargantuan monolithic pile of the Supreme
Courthouse in a banged-up Falcon only
to look through the corner window
behind the iron bars hoping
to catch a glimpse
of a certain Irish cop
– like a goldfinch
tethered to the law.)

Snow is falling today on Providence,
it comes down gradually from cloud to ground;
soon Mardi Gras, then Lent, a drop of ash
on seared forehead; and through the
mirror of a dusky glance I see
one green-eyed almond Magdalen –
a chalice in her hands, she holds
this dying light in pale green fields,
while snow falls slowly over Providence.


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