“To Giovanni da Pistoia When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel, 1509”

I have already grown a goiter in this drudgery—
As water does to cats in Lombardy,
Or in whatever other region it may be—
Which forces my belly to hang under my chin.
I feel my beard skyward, and memory
On top of my coffer,and my chest like a harpy’s;
And on my face all the while the brush
With its dripping makes a rich pavement.

My loins have entered my paunch,
And I turn my arse into a croup for a counterweight,
And I take steps vainly without my eyes.
My bark stretches out in front,
And from wrinkling in back, is all knotted,
And I strain like a Syrian bow.

Thus fallacious and strange
Rises the judgment which my mind carries;
For one shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.

My dead painting
Defend now, Giovanni, and my honor,
For I am not in a good place, nor am I a painter.

— Michelangelo Buonarroti (1509)
Translation by Luciano Rebay

“A Giovanni da Pistoia quando l’autore dipingeva la volta della Sistina, 1509”

I' ho già fatto un gozzo in questo stento,
come fa l'acqua a' gatti in Lombardia
o ver d'altro paese che si sia
c'a forza 'l ventre appicca sotto 'l mento.   
La barba al cielo, e la memoria sento
in sullo scrigno, e 'l petto fo d'arpia,
e 'l pennel sopra 'l viso tuttavia
mel fa, gocciando, un ricco pavimento. 
      
E' lombi entrati mi son nella peccia,
e fo del cul per contrapeso groppa,
e ' passi senza gli occhi muovo invano.      
Dinanzi mi s'allunga la corteccia,
e per piegarsi adietro si ragroppa,
e tendomi com'arco soriano.                  

Però fallace e strano
surge il iudizio che la mente porta,
ché mal si tra' per cerbottana torta.        

La mia pittura morta
difendi orma', Giovanni, e 'l mio onore,
non sendo in loco bon, né io pittore. 

— Michelangelo Buonarroti (1509)

“into the high chaparral”

“Syntax is never what you thought it was; just when you think you’ve got it down, it bolts out of the corral into the high chaparral. The job of poetry is not to get syntax back in the corral but to follow its wild journey into the unclaimed.”

Charles Bernstein from Recalculating