Caravaggio

By Edward Butscher

Circling tourists, mostly American

and white-haired, are unable to dilute

its spotlight flood, the blood-letting

of a prone John the Baptist occupying

an entire wall in St. John’s Cathedral

 

his zealot’s head bound for severing

to feed a reckless, feckless beauty—

or to float (strings invisible as shark

atoms) down to that sunless sea

of another poet’s opium dream.

 

A docked white yacht bares masts

tall enough to recall the bristling

forest of Barbarosa’s armadas,

when Suleyman the Magnificent

twice gnashed his teeth against

Valletta’s star-thrust bunkers,

awaits our return with champagne

cocktails and glazed tea cakes.

 

The caught faux knight fled Malta

to reclaim Rome’s papal pardon

for his original crime, parading

rough-trade across a Biblical stage,

painting the forbidden hidden light,

but he was wounded in the attempt

fittingly dying of a fever at age 37.

 

Dance with me is the nightly request

as a school of mostly older bodies

surges around a rainbow-lit lounge,

defying their pain-jolted bone joints

—and the fecal blackness smeared

on cabin portholes with a blind brush.

___

Edward Butscher is the author of first biographies of Sylvia Plath and Conrad Aiken, as well as shorter books on Adelaide Crapsey and Peter Wild, much criticism, and several books of poems, most recently, Eros Descending.


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