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Summer 2015

A Lesson from Giotto

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for Anne

I think we should turn our eyes away from the widow in The Golden Gate,
Wonderful and wary as she is in her unportentous shroud,
And notice the young housemaid next to her, holding the towels,
Her profile a study in simple stupid kindness.

Well, just look at the two of them, she is saying, at their age, in front of us all.
I only hope I have someone in years to come whose beard,
Back from the wilderness, my fist will dig into so tenderly.

The gold on the archway has worn through to black.
Cities, in this innocent desert, choose each a rock platform
For stability more than defense, the blue of the sky
Boxed in the watchtower, the sun not out,
Low scrubbed bridges leading to the center of the earth.
“The falling line of the draperies,” says Ruskin—
Hers like a hanging brown husk of a flower—
“Owe a great part of their value to the abrupt and ugly
Oblongs of the masonry next door.” (Unfair to the men
Whose combs so carefully roughened the face of each brick.)

The old man holds on to his lost beloved, his cloak pulled up
In loose pink creases like flayed skin. “Because our speech,
Not to say our imagination, has no colors
To match folds like these.” Folds and restraints.
Two corrugated, serviceable haloes touch with a soft clang.

—T. J. Clark

T. J. Clark is working on a book called Heaven on Earth, with Giotto as its hero.


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