Restoring Pontormo’s Veronica
I swear he breathed down my neck.
I smelled his pungent manhood,
grimy crusts on his pant thighs
he was no faint knight—
a madman in artists clothing.
I could see it in the swipes
of his angel’s feet—a brush thick
as the Fire-eater’s brow—
and with a dab from his thumb
he created Veronica’s smallest toe.
I felt the energy of his prime
conjuring Veronica’s purest form—
womanhood enticing him
under her spell—holding the cloth
of Christ’s Imprint, or perhaps his own.
I hesitated then to be up there
with the rumble of traffic below
stripping us bare of time. I let go
my brush so as not to touch
the Veronica he guarded so well.
His stormy emotions blew me down
numb on the cusp of the scaffold boards,
my legs dangling as his words breathed
through his love’s stare and his own glare—
My Veronica is not to be touched.
But his lunatic ghost had no power
over time’s clutch. I finally stood and began
my fearful cleaning—centuries of grime
and history’s dust removed from the last stroke
of his hard caressing brush.
Lily Prigioniero graduated from University of Michigan in English literature then moved to Florence, Italy, to study Art Conservation where she was certified and hired to work on some of Tuscany's greatest masterpieces. In the meantime she received her Masters in creative writing from the Università degli Studi di Siena where her novel, La Cena del Tacchino, won the “Premio Selezione” for the international literary prize Premio Internazionale Anguillara Città d’Artein Rome. She translated the catalogue for the Mappelthorpe/Michelangelo exhibit Perfection in Form in the Accademia in Florence, and was a featured poet for the Ekphrastic Review as well as a judge for their “Ekphrastic Challenge”. Her poems have also been published in the Orchard Poetry Journal, The Road Not Taken, Grand Little Things, Italian Americana, and the poetry collection 3,651 Years Lived. She has taught writing for New York University’s Global Studies program, Brandeis University’s Midyear program, and art conservation and ancient techniques at the Florence University of the Arts. She lives with her family near Florence.