Lend me Carpaccio, better yet Crivelli,
grant a Renaissance Master to paint all this.
Does it matter what I’m wearing
or the room he paints us in, or the view?
Only that we’re caught, hung
immobile in a thick, gilt frame:
my rogue knight with his enigmatic expression;
while I fancy myself simpering,
face it, I was untouched. Naive.
Only ermine could symbolise such purity.
I’d make a good Madonna,
our trauma equal to the Annunciation,
the ride to Bethlehem, the old refusal at the inn
—not to mention everything that came later.
I begin to understand the mask of forgiveness,
the way it can be pasted to a face,
lips tamed. The only trouble is the eyes,
hard to know what they betray.
But all that’s no matter. They were hard times;
others belong in this portrait: solicitors,
a judge. Those officials
in the colours of the duchy are social workers,
the woman looking on with such compassion
is my counsellor. Pale hands hold open a book,
there ought to be a white flower,
an owl winging the dark,
so long as there’s an apple for original sin,
a braying ass to anticipate the apocalypse;
ruins depicting the inability
of some to see the true light;
at our feet a green snake threads a skull
to warn of life’s transitory nature;
the artful arrangement of a cucumber
suggests rebirth, and two lizards
emerge from hibernation
to allude to the resurrection of Christ.