Lamentation (after Giotto)
by Constance Brewer

You’d have to be carved from Carrara marble
not to feel for the mother cradling her dead

son, face twisted with the commencement
of grief, as if she just realized the enormity

of this awaited tragedy. The gathered crowd
mourns as bystanders do, some in abject sorrow,

weeping,
others contemplating their looming mortality.

When I pass from this realm I hope angels
attend my death, wailing, arms flung wide

in approximation of the congregated humans below,
angels with palms pressed together, folded to cheeks

white with misery, angels rending garments, wings
flattened in despair, and everywhere, everywhere,

the wide-flung hands,
those howling hands.
Giotto_Lamentation Ekphrastic Poem – “Lamentation (after Giotto)”
The inspiration for this poem was the Lamentation fresco by Giotto in the Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy. I was lucky enough to see the Giotto frescos in the Chapel in person when I lived in Italy, and the Lamentation has always stuck with me. There’s nothing like standing in front of the work of art to feel its power. I was struck by the quiet but forceful emotions of the figures in the painting. So much is expressed through simple gesture.
I first started on this poem several years ago. I was never happy with the version I had, so one day I carved it apart, taking a line or two that said what I wanted to say and building the poem from there. I used a tiny bit of anaphora to echo the repetition of angel hands and human hands. Couplets seemed appropriate for this poem as did a dash of enjambment. (Not finished, abandoned)

Seems pretty finished to me Constance! And very moving — an honest response to a great work of art. You draw the reader right in at the first line:

You’d have to be carved from Carrara marble

and the sorrow culminates in that one word line, “weeping”. But what I loved most was that personal — and very human response that we might all want attendant angels and loved ones at out demise: that Mortality looms for us all.

those howling hands.

What a wonderful perception that is! Hands hold, serve, care, caress. Why should they not then howl in mourning for the ones they have attended so lovingly?

I am not an artist yet I often find myself writing ekphrastic poems. I often think they are my way of understanding art, of making sense of what I cannot do myself — express the world in paint. As a visual artist, Constance has perhaps more affinity when it comes to translating picture into words.

Anyway … Thanks for sharing this one, Constance.

Now folks, if you have a minute pop over to BwS and read my latest poem too — Maybe the Brave  It’s a Chain Poem

and my letter about BLIZZARD — Filling the Blank