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This poem is taken from PN Review 266, Volume 48 Number 6, July - August 2022.

Martha, Mary and Magdalene Retouched Dan Burt
for Paula

In the left panel, Martha sits,
thighs akimbo on a tall stool,
pastels open by bare right foot,
eyes raised, brush poised to put
on canvas cruelty, fear, rape;
not Rossetti’s ethereal amateur,
but novice worthy of the ur-sister
who told off Christ, and maybe,
set him to washing-up after tea.

A woman cradles a man
in the centre painting, a Pietà
unlike Michelangelo’s five centuries ago
in cream Carrara; no Mary bowed,
bearing her son on Golgotha
but frowning, ramrod, tempered lady,

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