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.

Henri Rousseau’s Safari Park

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2010

We visited Henri Rousseau’s safari park when the wars
were done. The place was overgrown, left
in such a hurry.

The leaves we could see in that little clearing were choking,
splattered into wet root husks and mud,
turning deep and greasy as they bent into heaps,
churning the rain into thick, dark colour.

No animals were still in sight but the really frightened ones
with the biggest teeth.

The branches were thinner there, beyond that sole glass
window that stood there, constrained to its case
but rattling in the winds,
where the ticket office had been.

The park must have been beautiful in the moment,
when the bombs were cracking the city around it,
after the gift shop and before the peace time.

When we finally arrived, it was too late.
The zookeeper had moved on, left this stark storm behind him.
Europe was safe for one more generation.
We got in our car, wiped our glasses and left.