From Pontormo

Margaret (Migs) Grabar Sage

Not around but under, through,

between the bones or whatever holds

you up. There will be no

touching you now. Just burrowing

burrowing through to the bottom of you

however bright or brined in death, however sorry

I’ll be to sink my flighty fingers in

where your splinters split so thin they flow.

The place is sterile, coldest bath

of sunlight save on me, in aging flesh

with toes already pointing off of cliffs

I’ve never seen. The bodies here are strung

like rubber bands from peg to peg.

The bodies here are clothed in water

like the rain-clouds, like I hope

they would have wanted. I am bound

by nothing solid save the rinds,

the crusts and pits and peels that lie

in waves along the sand when all has dried

and I have gone to tide me over.

Note: This poem imagines the inner life of Jacopo Pontormo as he painted his dazzling Deposition on the Cross. It was written as part of a multidisciplinary exhibit centered on reinterpreting the painting as well as the painter himself. This poem is a sort of ekphrasis on the painting, but it also draws on Pontormo’s diaries, in which he recorded what foods he ate nearly every day, along with other details of consumption—quotidian worries over waste and the passage of time. A typical entry goes like this: “Saturday, fasted. Sunday evening, which was the evening of Palm Sunday, I ate a little boiled mutton and salad, and had to eat three quattrini of bread.” Sometimes the painter records how his body feels, and often he sketches in the margins of the journal. On June 9th, 1554, all he writes is this: “Marco Moro began to prepare the walls and fill in the cracks in San Lorenzo.” Such lines are a reminder of everything these “diaries,” an obsessive and idiosyncratic set of records, lack. But there is also something marvelous in these unrehearsed observations, a poetry if you will, that makes me think I’m getting just a little closer to the painter himself.