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DONATELLO'S MAGDALEN

The muscles of the Magdalen's arms and legs are ropes of dignity
the body fights for against the soul, and the soul is winning.

The wood of the Magdalen is blackened,
though Donatello intended her to be gilded,

as if he wished her gaudy life back,
the sad men's breath, their rough skin

against her own: hennaed, tattooed,
paradise etched over her. All that, here, gone to darkness

by a slow mottling in the sun. And it seems this
would be her wish, to be untouched by earthly light,

gold. Her pelt divides into supple curves of wood,
each curl on the hem cool to the touch — almost wet,

washed in the tears of one beside herself with weeping.
The same one who first saw Jesus as He rose from the grave,

so changed she thought Him a gardener.
The Magdalen's hips, ravaged beneath the waves of hair,

are bone cradle where she would rest His head,
were everything not already given up to God.

Her fingertips delicately approach each other, not
yet meeting: She's in the moment of conversion,

ravaged by it, her hair already grown to a ragged shroud,
stuck to her face like keloids from a burning touch.

      — Allyson Shaw