This is the second day since I left Him. I left Him crowned in royal poverty. I left with a gift of mem’ry to hymn until my throat was rich in charity. What am I to do? I’ve seen God enfleshed, seen the Divine suckle at the breast, seen Living Water by mother refreshed, seen God’s Word by a father’s breath caressed. It seems time would’ve shuddered to a halt when the Timeless One slept with ass and ox, when the Bread of Life was sprinkled with salt, when I bent to present His gold-filled box. He’s the paradox: Prophet, Priest, and King; the Word—fleshed, yet, I recall His babbling.
July 3, 1863 “The town of Gettysburg looked as if some universal moving day had been interrupted by catastrophe.” But there was only one documented civilian death during the battle: Ginnie Wade (also widely known as Jennie), 20 years old, was hit by a stray bullet that passed through her kitchen in town while she was making bread.
July 1-3, 1863, one-hundred and fifty-eight years ago, the Battle of Gettysburg began and resulted in the largest casualties of the American Civil War.
The Battle of Gettysburg resulted in eight-thousand men killed in combat; these bodies, baking in the heat of summer, needed to be buried quickly. Over three-thousand horse carcasses were burned in a series of piles south of town; townsfolk became violently ill from the stench. Meanwhile, the town of Gettysburg, with its population of just two-thousand, found itself tasked with taking care of fourteen-thousand wounded Union troops and an additional eight-thousand Confederate prisoners.
According to lore, the Union soldier to fire the first shot of the battle of Gettysburg was Lt. Marcellus Jones.
So many eyes have seen this sea, they’re blind.one of thirty-six
fishermen brave the high sea —
mighty fuji’s seen
meditate on where
oh, place the kento1 with care —
every part is spare
the sea’s our lover
her lovers brave her fury —
lapis lazuli 2my love’s a dragon
Edo3 sees the fickle sea —
push the brush away
So many eyes have seen this sea, they're blind.
@ rlbusséll 2021 - All rights reserved.
The Japanese printing “registration” system. Registration is a method printers use to guarantee that each print in a series is aligned the same way. ↩
a bright blue metamorphic rock consisting largely of lazurite, a bright blue pigment formerly made by crushing, being the original ultramarine. ↩
This day we’re meant to sing love’s newest note — to note Christ’s washing filthy toe and heel.
“Lord, I’m a lamb, don’t treat me like a goat.” “If I don’t wash you — you will never heal.” “Then wash my feet, my hands, my head, my all.”
“O children, I’ve but time to bathe your feet, after this night, after silver and gall, I’ll tell you all — now I’ve time for your feet.”
After each toe was washed by Heaven’s head, our Lord returned to the table and sat to speak of hardened heart and dripping bread, to speak of Simon’s son — the Devil’s rat; that solid Son-of-Jonah’s triple no, betrayal, bleating sheep — a morning crow.
Painter. Profligate. Michelangelo, the fool. — Cardsharps in Kahn’s hall.
Was there a time when demons conquered, stayed; when Anthony’s tormentors shied away? Why roam through Rome your bravado displayed; why take your eye from your vision to stray? Your meanest tableaus set my mind aflame; Your work has worked itself into myself; Your brush became my only brush with fame. Uffizi’s Medusa’s upon my shelf. Blesséd Matthew, gripped by passion and flame, is taught by an angel’s breathless whisper. Then there is your telling of our night’s shame when, in the dark, Light was framed with silver. Do you still lie amid the labyrinthine streets of your Caesars’ stony concubine?
The echoing step Moves us through history’s halls — Saint Matthew’s burning.
My name still flies amid cent’ries’ darkness and like an ever circling bird, rises. My demons still roam my Rome in darkness looking for young flesh and tender prizes; Time’s elusive progress is circling ’round. Night required I prick with sharpened sword and sharpened tongue my enemies to hound; they were circling ‘round my girls to hoard their beauty and so keep my fame at bay. Have you seen my Fillide? Does she still live within Peter’s shadowy cabaret? I need to know if our flame will outlive my canvas, my sword, my haughty bluster. Do her lips still call men to her chamber?
Tiber flows swiftly. A starving tern yearns for food — Pleasures at coin’s cost!
Fillide did what she had to do to live and at the dawn of her womanhood, she plied her flesh and soul to live; the attractive are often forced, in poverty, to flee morality, and thus all the devils win. Fillide did die so many years ago that time has almost forgotten her sin. It must be pain entire to hit so low. I’m sure your Fillide’s flame is still burning; for her will did will herself in a frame. She died remembering you without spurning. She left us while petitioning our Dame. I pray Mary heard you at your last breath that all your darkness did not mark your death.
Mortar frames her bed. We all seem to hold our breath — The nightingale sings.
I can’t recall the cutlass’ cut ’n’ flash. My flesh was torn too soon to notice much. I recall the slow gasp, the bloody slash, the eyes so filled with knowing. And no touch can bring my blood to flowing. And no word can now make sinew move my dusty bones. All was darkness, there was a footfall heard, (the mute sound of leather on hardened stones) and then a challenge I could ne’er refuse. My rage ’twas like on Malta’s rock. I burned. I flared. “I’ll not have you my name ill-use. I am Caravaggio! You’re ill-learned. Honor you’ll show me or you’ll die tonight”, then came the end to me who once was knight.
Gilding frames his head. Now we speak of light and dark — Salomé dances.
Since childhood, I’ve had a powerful reaction to any image created by Caravaggio and I wanted to express my deep love for his work and my heartache at his untimely passing. When childhood heroes are hoisted on their own petard, some part of the edifice of childhood crumbles and this poem is a reaction to his falling façade.
M. Caravaggio is told, in what Michael O’Siadhail (Pronounced mee-hawl o’sheel) calls a “saiku” in his brilliant work “The Five Quintets.” The haiku before and after each sonnet act as a kind of time machine or a means to comment on what is to follow or what has just past.
M. Caravaggio contains four sonnets: in the first and third I ask some questions and in the second and fourth Caravaggio replies.
Poetic license was taken in the manner of Caravaggio’s death. No one truly knows how he met his end.
I have stayed away from posting for about a year — twenty-nineteen’s “haiku year” took a toll. I have not been idle though. As I hope this poem will attest. I pray this year will be your banner year and all good will be showered upon you and yours.
Cupid laid by his brand, and fell asleep:— Sonnet CLIII – William Shakespeare ↩
Cupid laid by his brand, and fell asleep:
A maid of Dian's this advantage found,
And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;
Which borrow'd from this holy fire of Love
A dateless lively heat, still to endure,
And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove
Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.
But at my mistress' eye Love's brand new-fired,
The boy for trial needs would touch my breast;
I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,
And thither hied, a sad distemper'd guest,
But found no cure: the bath for my help lies
Where Cupid got new fire--my mistress' eyes.