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Perhaps it was the year 1560
or 1565, or some year in between –
he was already an old man
living in a large villa with hanging gardens
and silver-sea views of Murano;
he had, besides his genius and his hangers-on,
two sons and a beautiful daughter
recently dead from childbirth.

Her mother, his first mistress and wife
had died as well while birthing
the beautiful daughter, so he knew
the mother’s gaze often contained
a beginning and the certainty
of an ending
the birth encircling the life
in an ever shrinking loop.
Completion. And its destruction.

       – – – – – – – –

Wandering in mid-winter
the bridged paths of Dorsoduro –
here, the same stones and waterways and Adriatic sun
that touched the hurrying hands of Titian’s beleaguered assistants
as they returned to the atelier bearing the fruit of his brushes:
linseed oil, arsenic, mercury and chalk,
blended for the erotic folds of vermilion drapes, torn indigo robes of a Saint,
lush verdigris hills in the distance –

Within the halls of the Accademia, hung near the huge lamentations
of Tintoretto and across the room from Giorgione’s
broken and anguished old woman,
one might easily miss the simple, humble
Virgin holding in her layered lap a fat-bellied
god. The mother’s gaze closes the picture, making
the viewer a voyeur; it is a love past all understanding,
outside of time, but also the birth of time.

In her son’s eyes the god-bearer witnesses both infinity
and the blooded transience of flesh. Her son, the contradiction,
her son, the fated lesson that cannot be learned.
She takes his hand.
She is the one who knows the true sacrifice.
She takes his hand, not to comfort or hold,
but to touch, for a moment, her creation:
time, love, and its annihilation.

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