Maddelana Casulana to Isabella de Medici
Slender hands can’t seize chances. So much for that
when we breathe the narrowed sleep of reason
that bids us tend and bide a husband.
Their mariners score them maps, steel-incised
empiries hard and spread as their bodies.
They lend us a press of wax to imprint
our names, their melted flattery,
gone with a snuff in the dawn.
They’d not like a woman stamped in her own steel,
the first book of madrigals, where women
eye a man direct and violet black as ink,
stain him to them with their intellected hearts
with the mind of their bodies more wide than
sheets of conquest folded into stars, not eyes.
I say them you’d not dare let us out-draw
your days. But I say it soft as wax I seal
with this ring. Beware great friend the inconstant
waxing of brothers, and men’s lean hands.
Portrait by Don Faulkner