Madonna del Parto
And then smelling it, feeling it before the sound even reaches him, he kneels at cliff’s edge and for the first time, turns his head toward the now visible falls that gush over a quarter- mile of uplifted sheet- granite across the valley and he pauses, lowering his eyes for a moment, unable to withstand the tranquility—vast, unencumbered, terrifying, and primal. That naked river enthroned upon the massif altar, bowed cypresses congregating on both sides of sun-gleaming rock, a rip in the fabric of the ongoing forest from which rises— as he tries to stand, tottering, half- paralyzed—a shifting rainbow volatilized by ceaseless explosion.
Copyright © 2018 by Forrest Gander. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“The Madonna del Parto, a fresco painted by Piero della Francesca, depicts the pregnant Virgin Mary—her blue gown split open suggestively. My late wife, the poet C. D. Wright, and I saw it together in Monterchi, Italy. Grieving her loss and spending time alone in wilderness areas, I had a vision of the green forest split open by a waterfall—the sound of the distant falls converted into fountains of color as sunlight reflected from wet spray.”
Forrest Gander is the author of several poetry collections, including Be With (New Directions, 2018), winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. He currently serves on the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.
Date Published: 2018-08-08
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/madonna-del-parto