This is late. I’m sick. Thursdays are random anyway, so what the heck.
This is actually the first poem I ever published, in an issue of the Black Fly Review. It was written for an art history class where we had to select a specific painting and give a response. The example was a poem, and I misunderstood and thought we were supposed to write a poem, which pissed me off.
As it works out, this is one of the high points of my academic career — one of those moments that changes your outlook forever.
The painting is Pippo Spano, by Andrea del Castagno, written for his “Cycle of Famous Men and Women.”
Sorry I’m a bit nonlucid tonight.
Steel plate weighs down
On my shoulders — it hurts.
I have been here for hours
And will return for days
I feel the links of the hauberk
Bruising my flesh. On a horse,
In a battle, fighting a war
You can move, and the blood pumps
Through you. Here, my sabre gets
Heavy in my hands.
A fine blood silken coat slips
Above the plate — it makes me
Look grand, and the painter likes it
More than he likes my face. I
Have seen what he has done, and
I look amused, or cocksure.
War is not amusing (no one wears
Tilting armor into battle!).
War is not strutting and preening
It is the cry of a thousand dead men
Before realizing their wounds.
(What fool hangs fringe from mail?
It will only get caught).
Yet they say my face and deeds will
Live forever — just listen to the
Man who will not let me look him
In the eye.
All my battles.
All my wars.
They must be for something? Someone?
And so I stand, unready for battle
Unable to defend myself.
My thigh itches, but it will take too
Long to free the greave just for that.
And I wait for immortality.
(upon reflection of Pippo Spano, by Andrea del Castagno, c. 1448)
Eric Alfred Burns