The easel of Mantegna

The easel of Mantegna

Empty-armed, like a soldier,
waiting for the deposition
still to happen, watching

as the rough skin is stretched
across the squat square ribs
and stapled, scraped

with a palette-knife, before
the morbid undertaking
of the gesso and the paint.

Or say instead, you always
were inclined to play
an active role in this,

our cruellest fiction: empty-
angled and pristine save
where you were brushed

with the death and cleansed
with the dizzy stench of spirit.
You are the awkward ladder,

the hallowed steps, the endless
air forever drifting through
the thin rafters of an unroofed

steeple – on or in or out of
whom the wide sound
of resurrection still remains

for us a thing we listen for
in silence:
untolled, unrunged.

from A Lens in the Palm (Carcanet, 2008), ? Kelly Grovier 2008, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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