Michelangelo Musings

The well-dressed woman outside our “hotel” in Piazza Quiriti

“Get used to it. This is Rome.

Everything is broken in Rome.”

As we walked into a room

filled with white busts in the Borghese Gallery,

My husband:

“Look at all the broken statues.”

They copied the ancient Roman statues,

not knowing they were painted once.

Now all sculptures are colorless, pale, dead…

But what about David,

Standing at the end of a hall filled with Michelangelo’s unfinished statues,

Towering over a gaggle of tourists snapping him with their cell phones?

At the unfinished Pieta, the American woman:

“His arm! His arm! Look at it! It’s too long!

It’s out of all proportion!”

But David’s skin, the veins in his hands, the muscles…

Not cold marble, but alive. A heart that beats.

You can feel Michelangelo’s love for him.

The tour guide with wild eyes in the Uffizi Gallery,

Holding a picture of the statue of Night

From the Giuliano da Medici tomb:

“Look at this. It’s supposed to be a woman,

But the breasts are not right.

Michelangelo couldn’t sculpt women.”

But what about the Pieta in St. Peter’s,

What about the out-of-proportion Mary

With the mannish legs?

She could make you cry, take your breath away.

And then I saw the tomb myself in the Medici chapel–

The rough and unfinished faces of Day and Dawn.

He must have saved them, his best, for last

But left them when he went to Rome to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Now, there’s colour!

Scrape away the dirt of centuries

And even ancient Roman statues

have scraps of colour—

Bright, vibrant, alive

And almost forgotten.

“Everything is broken in Rome!”

Broken and beautiful.