Arrivaderci Firenze

Today was our last day in Florence. We spent the morning at the Uffizi, which has some of my favorite art of all times. Maybe it was the crowds of tour groups tramping through that got to me, but I was peeved about people taking pictures of the paintings instead of actually looking at the art. Do we have to see the entire world through our iPhones and cameras? Of course, ironically, there I was taking photos with my phone of people taking photos.


Firenze Poem

 At Feral Mom, Feral Writer, my friend, Tania Pryputniewicz just wrote about a wonderful morning we spent together in Calistoga, and has challenged me to write a Z poem. Here in Florence it seems a lovely thing to do. Thank you, Tania. 

For Tania From Italy

Here z's 
are everywhere:
Firenze
scamorza
pizzeria
palazzo
zabaglione 
Piazza della Stazione
Via Panzini
San Lorenzo
Uffizi
Rizzo
They fly from my mouth,
zip through the air
like chimney swifts
circling the great dome
outside my window.
Violin music swirls up
from the piazza below.
Delizioso.

Dancing With The Madonna



One of my favorite paintings in the world is in one of my favorite places in the world:  the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.  The painting in question is in the room with Botticelli’s famous “Primavera” and “The Birth of Venus”.  Those two paintings are so popular that the room is always packed with people - even those who have no deep interest in art.  I remember my second visit to the Uffizi – I was traveling alone so I had been spending as much time as possible in museums and churches, soaking up art to my heart’s content. There was no one to beg me to leave, but also no one to share my experiences with.  Every time I turned from a piece of art, excited to see it again, my only companion was my notebook - that trusty shield that protects all solitary travelers.  However, as long as I had the paintings, I could be content. But on this day I couldn’t get near enough to see because of a tour group that flocked together in front of the naked Venus clothed only in her blonde hair.  They made me more than a bit cranky so I sat on a bench to wait them out. This is usually an easy thing to do since most people look at art for so short a time. I sat there feeling - I confess this freely - smug and superior to these "check it off my list" type of tourists.

            On this day, that wait was fortuitous because I had to make do with gazing at the other Botticelli paintings in the room – no less beautiful – but much less famous.  Perhaps because they are subtler, they take longer contemplation.  One in particular caught my eye. Titled “Madonna of the Pomegranate,” what drew my attention was the expression on the Madonna’s face.  Usually Mary is depicted with a sweet, pensive look or even a bit of sadness – as if she were well aware of the end of her story.  But this Mary, instead of gazing joyfully or lovingly at the heavy baby clasped in her arms, looked downright bored.  And why was she holding a pomegranate?  It made me remember my childhood obsession with Greek and Roman myths, of Persephone and her ill-fated bite of the pomegranate that kept her half the year in Hades. It made me curious enough to find out that in Christian iconography the pomegranate is a symbol of resurrection and eternal life (Symbols in Christian Art & Architecture http://www.planetgast.net/symbols/).  In light of that, her expression is even more intriguing. Forgetting my own loneliness, I sat there a long time. Just what was Mary thinking?   

Madonna of the Pomegranate
- A painting by Sandro Botticelli in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

I have waited here for centuries,
clasping this heavy infant in my lap,
beset by the whispers of angels –
always words of
praise and adoration,
alleluia and Ave Maria.
Glory becomes tedious.

Sometimes I think the child
teases me holding
a pomegranate in his hand,
its ripe skin split to reveal its seeds –
glistening rosary beads
which tempt me
to seize something for myself.

Visitors no longer notice me,
never puzzle the meaning
of the strange fruit
my son carries.
They would much rather exult
in the riot of Spring,
the brilliance of Venus.

I long to shake off these stiff robes,
clothe myself in waves,
strew my hair with roses and dianthus.
I’d like to sink my teeth deep
into the pomegranate,
roll the seeds across my tongue,
be-rouge my lips with juice.

To relieve my monotony,
I’d relish anything,
even welcome
the revelation of fear.
How lucky was Persephone!

                             (Poem originally published in my chapbook, In the Poem an Ocean, Big Table Publishing Co. 2012)