(Artwork by Michelangelo Buonarotti, of course.)
In 1995, I had been hermetically sealed in a bad marriage. The person I married was not really bad, but the whole systemic instutition was killing me off. I felt caged and smothered. So instead of getting a divorce, I signed up for Creative Writing. Professor James Elledge at ISU knew my fondness for expensive multisyllabic words. My assigment? Write a poem using only words with two syllables or less.
Michelangelo’s figure work has always connected with me on a real gut level. The men and women are equal. They have substance, motion, tension, expression. My favorite is the Libyan Sibyl from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Her face is beautiful. Her biceps are epic. The Creation of Adam is probably one of the most well known, but we shrug and think it’s cool and slightly holy. Everyone is so familiar with it that it’s now a blip on the pop culture art radar. I even had a set of coffee cups from Goodwill that had God handing Adam a cup of coffee.
So I wanted to really look at it as meat for this piece. Examine the curve and composition that supercedes the power of the event depicted. It is beautiful. It is a celebration of the human body. God is not huge. He’s the same size as Adam. In fact, it all seems very casual. Adam is just not awake yet. There’s no lightning bolt connecting them just yet. And God has brought his little friends who look very uncertain as to whether this is a good idea or not.
The Cat ELECTRIFIES The Canary
(Reflections on Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam)
Boy, is he in for it now! Look at that
finger pointing blame and regret.
Clay and earth thicken, Adam stricken with muscle
hangs in suspense.
We all know what comes next
in the drama; still, we ache to hear it
“You, boy. Move that cartoon clay butt of
yours up here! Going to make you walk and talk
and do all sorts of wholesome things.”
Reminds ole God of story he once heard
’bout Mister Franken something who built himself
a man out of spare parts.
“Boy, you’re lucky all right. I used grade A clay,
real earth, no used parts.
Now don’t eat the fruit and don’t play
with the big snake.”
We want sparks to fly and
shock him awake.
We want Darwin to eat
his words and scratch
his primate skull.
lightning hits us, makes us live like we just
No more flaccid wrist or empty
“Come on, Daddy-O, hit us with volts,
amps and ohms.”
Waiting and hoping.
Only a crack
in the plaster for false lightning.
“Come on, Big Guy! Jolt us! Bolt us! Give us your own
Big Bang! Make science cry! Make blood sing and wail!
Hurts so good!
Touch it! Come on, touch it!” we scream.
And Adam lies there all naked
lounging like a Playgirl model
waiting for the Big Boy
to give him the finger.