Angel with Lute
High on the vaulting as though levitating,
for five centuries I have gazed down
at a blur of straining adam’s apples,
gaping nostrils and goggle-eyes focusing
on the frescoes for long enough to take in
my soft colour tones, my wings’ pale
transparency, my fingers on the strings.
Against the hair-line cracks in the sky,
faded through the ages, only traces remain
of my halo’s gilding. But no disruption
of my features, thanks to my master
having properly prepared his pigments
before drawing my curls and straight nose-line,
the powdery red and green of my costume.
Not just the fee (though that filled his belly),
or religious conviction. I’ll tell you a secret.
Invisible from ground level is a small smudge
on my cheek. His last brush-stroke complete
and before they dismantled the scaffolding
my master leaned up and kissed me gently.
After all those years, that still sustains me.
from The Touch of Time: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2014), ? Stewart Conn 2014, used by permission of the author and the publisher.