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At the Uffizi


Martyrs don’t seem to bleed very much.
Saint Sebastian’s glowing skin, deep ambient gold, 
has been punctured by two small arrows
placed by Perugino in the neck and
in the gently muscled bicep. 
One thin dribble escapes from each wound, 
barely scratches, 
as he stands delicately, 
face to the sky.

So too, the crucified Christ is often depicted
with the appropriated spots where we affirm he ought to have bled–
two marks in his palms, his feet, 
and in his side, sliced with the smallest paintbrush–
just five decorous touches of scarlet, 
perhaps a few on his brow for good measure
to adorn the floating thorns.

These images bring to mind yesterday’s terror attack, 
millions of refugees, fleeing and dying, 
11-year-olds who must carry guns, 
entire countries terrified to move, 
and my own terrified little life.

And here I stand watching generations
of reverent artists who found comfort
in using paintbrushes and a skin tone pallet
to transfigure horrible deaths into dignified ones. 
But I wonder
how to find comfort
in the two pinpricks of Sebastian’s arrows
or in the clean and bloodless death of Christ.


Emily LaBianca