Nail Chiodo

Lucus Feroniae

Canto IX

The ponderous kerygmas are at last on record:
be they right on the mark or off by a long shot,
I trust I have neither peddled nor bought
articles of faith that cannot be reckoned.
Now I shall ponder Kerry’s charisma
with a lighter heart, and not compound enigmas.

Woman, artist, mystic: she was already all three
in the bud when I met her, with more than a tinge
of natural kindness and comical flair mixed in.
The Earth had just begun its seventeenth
orbit around the Sun with her on it,
while the Moon—whose phases set the rhythm
of the waxing and waning of moods from the gut, of uterine blood
the ebb and flood—unveiled to her its full face
for the two-hundredth time: without a trace of impatience,
it implied the moment to blossom had come.
And blossom she did, with a smile in which bloomed
special promise for me of all people: a boon like a boom
that raised my prospect all the way up to the stars.

She fared forth a magnetic poetess when we met
(“… Marry the messenger that brings the dark light
And the thrashing movement within his chest
Flaming the residue of filtered moonlight
Casting away the best….”), whereas I laid my bet
rather more on painting and the visual arts
as means by and through which to convey
the deepest impressions comprising my days.
When we encountered again many, many
years later, she remarked how curious it was
that we had each specialized in the other’s
original craft: I had not swapped my brush for her pen,
nor had she left a page blank to bedaub a canvass,
yet the common pursuit of a veridical language
had caused us both to revise our artistic plans.
The sad truth about the way the world was evolving,
the uncontainable, swelling tide of mediocrity
dumbing down everything that lay in its path
had forced us to set aside our envisaged professions—
which had been architecture in her case, film direction
in mine—in favor of activities we could engage in
without need of others, independent of markets that catered
to the brutalized masses they themselves had created.

I could think of nothing less tasteful than staging
gaudy or maudlin mises en scène for the dregs of humanity,
and one final downward tug at my vanity
told me it was high time I learned how to write.
Unlikely as it would be that I should ever be published
and find place in the store chains alongside the rubbish,
at least I could aspire to put in black and white
my own values, my own tastes, my own reactions:
may you rot, brave new dump, with all your contraptions;
I shall cherish the loves of which you will perish in spite!

Of Kerry’s scrape with the sky-scraping crowd—
if indeed there ever was one—I know nothing about;
I heard she changed career, that her ideas took flight
in search of the origin of perspective in Christian art,
and that the fact it lay secreted inside Giotto’s heart
made her use her own to bring it into view:
a novel approach which explains the arch claim of the girl
to be the greatest living art historian in the world.

Giotto was the harbinger of a radically new
vision and style in his time, who wrested the Western eye
from the hypnotic stare of stock-still Byzantine icons,
set it free to dance once again as in Classical times
over surfaces modeled by color and reflected light;
he reaffirmed the meaning of the human plight
with the increased complexity of motifs derived
from the great Christian spiritual experience;
to precious and dispersed Gothic leanings,
he opposed the renewed demands of what is essential—
brought linear perspective back into the proscenium,
which had flattened since the end of the Roman imperium.
But, as Kerry the mystic will tell you, nothing is coincidental.

It would transcend the scope of this memoir in verse
to offer more than a glimpse of the jocund universe
that her melodramatic approach discloses.
Unexpected turns of events at every corner
surprise one each time a metaphorical cornea
brings some added symbolic depth into focus.
Thus, the five stigmata of Francis in a famous fresco—
Karl, Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo
Kerry calls them in honor of the “Jesters
of God”, as the Saint referred to his acolytes—
are the origins and ends of as many modes of sight,
ideal, empathic wounds that are certain to fester
if not promptly dressed and seen in the right light.

For my part, I have always wondered whom Christ
is actually looking at as He stares straight into and through
Judas’s face in the panel at the Arena chapel.
If one took, so to speak, a theoretical scalpel
to a spot just in front of His eyes, the view
of the hidden horizon that would thereby be opened
would coincide with the vanishing point in that moment.
It would reveal the invisible line that, in effect,
snatches us like fishes out of our reveries
and draws us, by the collar or gills, entirely
into the picture, all the way to the aleph
of the murderous kiss—where we become Judas;
where Jesus, transfixed, gazes inside us.

Or even, conversely, if it is we the sons and daughters
of Man who are about to be slobbered upon
by the fink, there is still the same uncommon
array of temporal instances which are operative
in that instant: the original betrayal
two millennia ago, Giotto’s portrayal
of it twelve centuries later, our personal
acquaintance with the Biblical episode
in our own lifetime, and the current epiphanic
event brought to a head by the orthogonal
along which we would probe to the infinite;
whatever way you look at it, the result is exquisite.