Lady, was there always this distance,
this gap of mutual love?
Mixing his colours with holy water,
crushed relics and prayers, was this
what the iconographer perceived
dipping his brush deep into his soul?
Sturdy and capable, your right hand
supports the Child’s bottom,
thumb tip open, pointing away:
‘So, this is it … ’
And the Child perches,
stiff in blue and gold,
his face fitting like a flesh glove
between your cheek and eye,
feet resting delicately together,
onto the twin of that large hand.
There could have been a warmth
but, almost grotesquely,
you hold the figure of a young man:
head, limbs, torso
his face already written upon.
No infant dribblings,
no soft roundnesses,
no puffy vulnerability
of baby flesh,
Was this it? Your eyes stare
at no-one but the painter.
And over decades, centuries,
into how many other eyes
in candlelit churches, hovels,
apartments, palaces, galleries?
So much looking.
Would there have been so much
if there was no way in?
© 2017, Patricia Leighton
Published in ‘Dreamcatcher: Issue 19