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.