The Unverifiable Resurrection of Adão da Barco
First, a tourist finds a poem in the leper colony,
carved in a kapok, ants swarming sap in the cuts.
Then a fisherman uncovers instructions for a rain dance,
an usher discovers recipes for the jubilee.
A riverboat captain comes to town and leads them
to a tree in the north describing the mating habits
of the marabunta, to one in the south with an ode to plums.
In the west, a sonnet about a hen named Lucifer
whose fiendish eggs buzzed but when opened held only
wings and stingers. The town banishes him when
he lashes himself to a poem and scratches out the last
two lines but invites him back when a psalm
about the bastard tongue of Jesus’s sister appears in the east.
No one believes the boy he carries off the boat
is his own, not even when he shows them the statue
of the sundered madonna whose toothsome breasts
smell like the common, vulgar sweetness of maracuja.
A mule, wasp-stung and raging, tramples the child
in front of an elegy for Lazarus’s wife. The town collects
mummified hummingbirds for the boy’s pockets,
but the captain returns from the jungle with something
dripping from his knife—pulsing, doubtless, radiant.
What could bring back a son. What in God’s name
was sweet, is sweet, will be sweeter after sundering.
In Milan, the travel books direct us first to Leonardo’s Last Supper, the opulent fresco of high Renaissance color faded by moisture and rattled by Allied bombs during World War II. Contrary to Michelin, Lonely Planet, and the rest, however, I recommend—no appointment necessary, as with the Last Supper—a visit to the Sforza Castle, where there stands in splendid isolation a sculpture of such muted mystery and power that it is liable to alter your perception of reality, and of life and death, in a way that Da Vinci’s masterpiece will not: Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pietá.
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