John Reibetanz,
"Fresco Magic"

1. Pompeii

Look how they made walls vanish   not by running through them
Harry-Potter-style   but by painting them with what lay
beyond   hillsides of nimble-limbed olive trees dandling

clustered fruit from silver fingers   wind-furrowed wheatfields
squirrels lacing the nearby oak groves   and if you threw
wide the batten-framed shutters your eyes would be treated

not trumped   with flourishes setting inner and outer
in harmony   grace notes of lacquered vines in duet
with sun-gilded grapes   shadows bridging from garden dials

to gnomons atop enameled globes   not a still life
among them   all in motion   whether counterpointing
the sun’s steady pace or quickened by the caperings

of torchlight   the builders not weighed down with all you know
about the heavy rain of pumice that melted roofs
muffled transoms and blinded windows   for they looked on

stone walls as wells of shifting light   their view not monu-
mental but moment-centred   waving wands of trowel
and brush to summon up a flute breathlessly upraised

for your fingering   or jug-eared Silenus reeling
from a column   or Aurora herself in mid-step
winking at you to join in the dance   now you see it

2. Villa Cicogna Mozzoni

His brother the Count and heir can’t stand the place   too far
from wi-fi   women   and song   so Jacopo tends it
tending mostly meaning standing after the rains   perched

high on a rung   patching cracked stucco or shoring up
tipsy roof-tiles   to keep the damp from feasting on aged
plaster and making a velouté of the frescoes

composed in the 1560s by two craftsmen from
Cremona   whose art was brush rather than awl   and who
brought back through pigment-magic the century-old glow

of the Duke of Milan’s visit   but Jacopo’s most
cherished frescoes aren’t Young Agostino Mozzoni
Saves Duke Galeazzo from the Ferocious Bear   or

the untitled bedroom panels whose red paint takes on
the nap and fall of velvet   or the hallway’s presti-
digitation   where the marble balustrade your hand

reaches for dissolves into a flat mirror-image
of its solid counterpart   but rather those vistas
that open view on view like Russian dolls   the stone-browed

portal framing a hall whose floor tiles gleam with sunlight
from some unglimpsed window   and whose foreshortened walls frame
another hall   where three thin-thinner-thinnest rays lay

gold stripes across a narrowing blue runner that ends
before the smallest hall targets your eye on a nub
of window at its heart   or the scene most at his heart

perhaps because most exposed   outdoors where the arcade’s
painted sky peeks through a painted trellis supporting
espaliered branches   bunches of grapes   and climbing hands

and feet of two putti grinning down from opposite
sides of the ceiling   each boy either upright or up-
side-down   grapes dangling or levitating   depending

on whose chubby-fingered grip you focus   Jacopo’s
weathered hands touching all the magic   his feet knowing
the ache of keeping such laddered airiness aloft

 

As in The Malahat Review, 186, Spring 2014, 13-15

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