Sunday, August 28, 2016

A poem with a Mantegna painting

The Lamentation over the Dead Chris

Mantegna, in his lifetime, was criticised for imitating sculpture: the loss of warmth that could be achieved in painting from real life. In the case of the dead Christ, however,  it is the marble of  the dead body that makes it perfect. The perspective draws more of your attention; then the suffering, fixed  stone-like in the image, fixes it in a similar way in your mind, and  it remains there: indestructible marble.

I am fascinated by the cold solidness of corpses; always drawn to run my fingertips down the cheek of a dead friend or loved one. The memory stays in my fingertips, and, somehow, it helps to know that the person is now changed to stone.


The Viewing.

Dead: the colour of old cream,
his eyes shuttered shut;
so neat, besuited and slim,
weight he lost dying.

They made a basket of his fingers
with a rosary spilling down;
everyone said he looked lovely
but then I touched his face
and it wasn’t him at all.

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