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Flora


ISSUE:  Fall 2013

In the great Archaeological Museum of Naples,
I visited Flora—force
behind everything that flowers—a fresco
rescued from buried Pompeii
in the eighteenth century.

I knew I had seen her before:
her pastel mood, her delicate
veils embroidered with blossom,
those pale limbs, her hair streaming
with the essence of flowers.

It must have been in Botticelli’s Primavera,
a train ride away in the Uffizi,
as if an artist of the fifteenth century
had envisioned the walls of Pompeii
long before he could have seen them.

In the same room in Naples stood the hollow wooden cow
Daedalus fashioned for Queen Pasiphaë to hide in
while waiting for her lover, that muscled bull.
Centuries later in Shakespeare,
another queen would think she loved an ass.

So artists dip into a deep but circumscribed pool,
fishing for something new
but sometimes finding
(still dripping with beauty)
the indelible, unknowable familiar.

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