“In the Sistine Chapel” | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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“In the Sistine Chapel”

A new poem by Scott Brennan

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The angels, please! It's Michelangelo showing off again,
mixing what's believable with what's not, work at heart

exaggerated, with those Schwarzeneggar biceps
and superhero legs that, because of the fresco's illusion,

seem to drop from the ceiling, more entertaining
than strictly religious, as if the crowd crammed

into the chapel were to be cloaked in an enormous page
not out of Genesis but of Marvel, enfolded in the powers

of red and blue pastel. When one has seen too much,
how can one then accept too little? The stars herald

the tour de force we're supposed to ooh and ahh at—
The Creation of Adam, now so ho-hum and cliché

(I can barely admit it, it's so perfect) after countless
coffee-table book appearances. Check it off, though,

as a birder checks off a pileated woodpecker, say, on his
or her "have seen" list. The person with the most wins,

though we're never sure what, except, one supposes,
bragging rights. Then: museum corridors, rooms, halls,

chambers, nooks, crannies—even more detail, more wonders:
goblets, urns, illuminated manuscripts, sculptures, vases,

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