Caravaggio after the death of Ranuccio Tomassoni

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2010

A reward for the head of the killer!
The head we can’t see in the black
of the scene. The perfectly honest expression
which is not our focus.

Michelangelo Merisi,
of Porto Ecole, formerly of Malta and Naples
and Rome, and Caravaggio,
has black hair lit by the yellow-white fingers
he thrusts his head at.

But that’s all we can see. Black hair,
black suit, crumpled and dirtied
like nails holding rotten fruits.

A dagger and sword, unlicensed
but blessed by a friend of a friend of a patron.
He runs from a tennis court.

‘Humility conquers pride’
says the sword on the still-moving
right leg. The leg is a master’s but it’s black,
never draped in red cloth like his perfectly human
dying virgin.

The most famous painter in Rome, and a good
duellist, flees the sordid scene at night, the streetlamp
bathing the fallen man and the hot spit still on his body.
The spit still on the monster’s lips
is invisible, for now.

A reward for the hero who slays this sinner
and takes him from this dark world into paradise.

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