Tuesday Poem – Flash Fiction by Michelangelo Buanarotti

I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture, hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy (or anywhere else where the stagnant water’s poison). My stomach’s squashed under my chin, my beard’s pointing at heaven, my brain’s crushed in a casket, my breast twists like a harpy’s. My brush, above me all the time, dribbles pain so my face makes a fine floor for droppings! My haunches are grinding into my guts, my poor ass strains to work as a counterweight, every gesture I make is blind and aimless. My skin hangs loose below me, my spine’s all knotted from folding over itself. I’m bent taut as a Syrian bow. Because I’m stuck like this, my thoughts are crazy, perfidious tripe: anyone shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe. My painting is dead. Defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honor. I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.

This was NOT intended by the writer to be ‘Flash Fiction,” though I think it may have some of the desired characteristics….drama, imagery, a lot of living in a short space.  It is actually a sonnet by Michelangelo written in 1509.

I removed the line breaks so it could be viewed  as a piece of short prose.  I like it better that way.   This translation seems to be the most popular.  I found it difficult to know who to attribute it to, however, as there are several which appear the same but have different names attached. You can view it here as a sonnet.

Michelangelo endured incredible hardship working on the Sistine Chapel and seems to have expressed it all in this short sonnet.  By the way he lived to the ripe age of 88. He must have been tough!

Michelle Elvy is this week’s Tuesday Poem editor.  It’s National Flash Fiction Week and she is the organiser.

I highly recommend you read the piece she has posted.

The picture below shows Michelangelo at sixty years old.

6 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem – Flash Fiction by Michelangelo Buanarotti”

  1. WOW I love this! I was totally caught up in it and did not know it before I got to your explanation. Very moving and yes you are right to point out how it captures so much in a tight space. I love the energy of this, and the flow. Wonderful thing to post here — also because it points to the blurry line between prose and poetry, which I like to traverse back and forth, here and there…

  2. Thanks Michelle. I really love it too and even though he’s complaining, with very good cause, it is full of vitality and humour.Good luck with this week’s activities and enjoy!

  3. I agree with Michelle – this is incredible! And it seems so modern, so current! I was so surprised when you attributed it to an earlier era. The final line really packs a punch – the utter submission, the giving in. Thanks for sharing, Helen 🙂

  4. Yes it does seem modern…part of that is due to the translation being fairly modern but even a much older translation has the same energy. He was an amazing man. Thanks for visiting Elizabeth.

  5. I knew Michelangelo was talented, but this is remarkable! He should have given up that interior decorating lark, with its long hours and cramped working conditions, and stuck to writing instead – I see him spending long hours in some Roman streetside cafe, laptop in front of him, espresso in hand.

  6. Hi Tim, yes it might have inspired an RSI poem instead.:-) That’s a lovely thought …it does seem a waste. He did write a few sonnets though and had a book published in his lifetime. This one …about his work is the gruntiest one I have seen. I just love it!

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