Michaelangelo: To Giovanni Da Pistoia When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel

                                                                                                            —1509

I've already grown a goiter from this torture,
hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy
(or anywhere else where the stagnant water's poison).
My stomach's squashed under my chin, my beard's
pointing at heaven, my brain's crushed in a casket,
my breast twists like a harpy's. My brush,
above me all the time, dribbles paint
so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!

My haunches are grinding into my guts,
my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight,
every gesture I make is blind and aimless.
My skin hangs loose below me, my spine's
all knotted from folding over itself.
I'm bent taut as a Syrian bow.

Because I'm stuck like this, my thoughts
are crazy, perfidious tripe:
anyone shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.

My painting is dead.
Defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honor.
I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.

Gail Mazur, "Michaelangelo: To Giovanni Da Pistoia When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel (by Michaelangelo Buonarroti)" from Zeppo's First Wife. Copyright © 2005 by Gail Mazur.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.
Source: They Can't Take That Away from Me (The University of Chicago Press, 2001)
More Poems by Gail Mazur