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John-Michael Bloomquist

La Primavera According to Savonarola

La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli

A small light in a dark cell is a bright light if it is
the only light. Shadows barely hide what the candle flicks—

Savonarola painting his back with a cat-o’-nine-tails,
pomegranate beads of blood joining into streams,

blow after blow. The painting seduced him with
its white myrtles of skin. The petals the Lord beholds

us in—who is Botticelli? Who is he to try and see us
as God sees us, naked in the garden? Ribbons of
blood reach around his belly like madder roots.

Angels dump their amphorae of blue and yellow light,
their wings fanning above Venus’s rhododendron tunic.

Venus stands at the center, Christ’s place. And Savonarola
cannot resist, the crucified body he prays to become

—to be eaten of, drunk of, as he eats and drinks of
Him—is now Her. From Venus’s mouth, daisies,

geraniums, and carnations slither into the basket of Flora—
the Spirit breathing life into us who walk through the vale of
death, impregnating earth with roses. Venus’s left hand

pulls the red tunic up her thigh, while the right hand lifts
like it’s signing a blessing, showing the inner lining—

the star-blue bells of her vestment tasseled with grapes.
What secret do her eyes harbor? A gaze  placid

listening, unconvinced of anything he believes.
Savonarola believes himself a fire-prophet for the popolo
minuto, the little malnourished people shrunk from the slave-

wage labor— farming on loan what they can’t
even afford to eat. The gods are tall because their growth

wasn’t stunted. Tall, sabered Mercury, on his toes, steals
the out-of-reach fruit before it falls to the street,

as if waste or charity were the height of vanity.


About the writer:
John-Michael Bloomquist lives in DC with his wife and their needy black cat, Zbigniew. He is an editor of Poems from the Jail Dorm, a collection of incarcerated men’s poetry. His poetry has been published in The Michigan Quarterly Review, Third Coast, The Southeast Review, and many others. Explore Hanno, his pamphlet in the 2022 O:JA&L Pamphlet Series.

Image: La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510). Tempera on panel. 79.9 x 120.3 inches. Circa 1480. Public domain.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supporting writers and artists worldwide.

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