Caravaggio: Swirl & Vortex
(reprinted by permisson of University of Pittsburgh Press)
In the Borghese, Caravaggio, painter of boy whores,
street punk, exile & murderer,
Mingling with disgust. A peach face; a death mask.
If you look closely you can see
For sale on the street where Ranuccio Tomassoni is falling, & Caravaggio,
Puzzled that a man would die so easily, turns & runs.
Wasn't it like this, after all? And this self-portrait,
David holding him by a lock
This town, & that town, & exile? I stood there looking at it a long time.
A man whose only politics was rage. By 1970, tinted orchards & mass graves.
The song that closed the Fillmore was "Johnny
B. Goode," as Garcia played it,
The patina of sunset glinting in the high, dark windows.
Once, I marched & linked arms with other exiles
who wished to end a war, & . . .
Of course, you could either stay & get arrested, or else go home.
In the end, of course, the war finished without us in an empty row of horse stalls
Littered with clothing that had been confiscated.
I had a friend in high school who looked like Caravaggio,
or like Goliath
In the unfinished suburb bordering the town, because,
in the demonstration models,
Off a path & stepped on a land mine.
Time's sovereign. It rides the backs of names cut
into marble. And to get
Into a wedding ring. You see, you must descend; it
is one of the styles
You can try to tease out some final meaning with your lips.
The boy who was standing next to me said simply: "You can cry. . . . It's O.K., here."
"Whistlers," is what they called them. A
doctor told me who'd worked the decks
Through them. I didn't believe him at first, &
so then he went into greater
Bent in the wind below a slight rise, & no one
around for miles. All he wanted,
My friend, Zamora, used to chug warm vodka from the
bottle, then execute a perfect
I'm actually thinking of Caravaggio . . . in his painting. I want to go up to it
And close both the eyelids. They are still half open & it seems a little obscene
To leave them like that.