Saturday, 21 November 2015

Il Bambino Dormiente (2013) by Paul Durcan

Last Tuesday I nipped over to Venice for a day and a
I needed to see one particular painting in the
Gallerie dell’Accademia
By Giovanni Bellini:
The Madonna Enthroned Adoring the Sleeping Child –
Il Bambino Dormiente. 
Needed to? Yes – needed to.
On the spit of dissolution,
Estranged from my family,
I needed to see again
The most affectionate yet sacred family portrait ever
Cheap Aer Lingus flight to Marco Polo,
Bus into the bus station in the Piazzale Roma,
Water bus down the Grand Canal to the Gallerie
Half-price entrance fee for a European pensioner.

Not many visitors. In a vast stone hall
I linger alone before Bellini’s small picture
Of all that it means to be your mother’s son 
In the mortal world, all that it means
To be a young mother doomed. I needed –
As we need to drink water to stave off death –
I needed to see myself as originally I was:
A naked male infant draped naked across my
mother’s knees,
Sleeping the sleep of death;
I needed to see her slightly prised-open eyes
glancing down
At his sleeping visage, his tall, thin, grey, aged
features –
Il Bambino Dormiente.
I needed to see again with my own eyes
Her apprehension of the inevitable;
To check again that she does indeed have red hair 
Parted down the middle
In a white veil
Under the flat gold plate of her halo
And that her cheeks also are red –
Not with rouge –
But with all
That is most virginal, auroral,
Most purely West of Ireland peasant princess, 
Palestinian Jewess,
Her slender fingers craned tall in prayer.
I linger – I linger all day.

I stayed overnight in a nearby pensione
On the Rio di San Trovaso,
‘The Villa of Miracles’, which between the two
world wars
Was the Soviet Russian Embassy.
(The concierge archly confided in me: 
‘We still receive the Russian clients.’)
In the middle of the night, after a catnap, 
Having churned back up the waters of the Grand
To the bus station in the Piazzale Roma –
A young Chinese woman named Ya
From Yunnan Province studying in Manchester 
Helping me find the bus to Treviso –
I got a Ryanair early flight back to Dublin
To settle my affairs and get ready for my own little
Meeting my mother in the big deep.

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