Madonna with the Long Neck

By Rebecca Poole

    A RELIGION OF distance, of manners, of reactions
    made as a sleeping child slides from his mother’s left hand.

    No Pietá these two: draped across the folds of her gown,
    he’s barely attached to her heavy lap. Outlined together,

    they make an unstable image, a diamond, a tear,
    and even though (it seems) any second he will roll

    out of the painting, this pale Mary pulls back
    oddly unconscious of her scene.

    Maybe she’s just listening, back to hearing those angels.
    Might be EMDR therapy, and she’s recalling God-knows-what,

    her tapered fingers fluttering at her fragile breast,
    reassuring her swan-like neck. Frightening

    how the oblivion in the mother’s guarded mouth
    and lowered gaze makes her mood unreadable. True,

    she’s a disproportion in blue. Balanced on patrician toes,
    enthroned in mid-air, she’s big as the column behind her.

    But why this perspective? Why don’t her attendants scream,
    drop their poses, their posies, their affects?

    Won’t anyone catch the baby, save the Savior? And why
    choose to worship only thin feet, long legs,

    snake shapes, inclined heads? Maybe it’s just a phase.
    A genre, this Mary with her case of post-partum distortion.

    Curious how these figures remain frozen, aware
    of their skewed beauty, not looking at each other.

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