Poetry / June 2014 (Issue 24)

On Meeting the Mother of MichaelAngelo

by Michael O’Sullivan

Rubber stumps of chairs were all that was left
When I sweated my way into the throng of
Saturday morning fast-food families after laps
Where a grey-haired bespectacled sprinter
Had careened and frowned his way past me
On the home strait of my circuitous Fuk Man sprint.

"You've been jogging?" she asked as I dripped nonchalantly
Into my ground coffee staring into the forty-something
face of charming inquisition as her daughter's face
disappeared behind a hash brown wrapper.

"You have children?" was not long in coming before she launched
"I have two eighteen year-old twins."
"They're called Michelangelo", to which I mentally quipped,
typical misuse of possessives,
only for her to explain,
"Michael and Angelo after my friend's twin-girls Mona and Lisa,"
Then to drive the point home,
"They love writing,"
"They will study English"
And I offered my profession at a lower-ranked school
As some kind of consolation for the grammatical wrong
I had framed her with as I swooned before her history of Western Art,
Now hoisted on her unsuspecting sons.
Sculpted torsos of writhing Papal heroes;
Enduring Western masculinity all muscle and olive girth
Arching above the eyes of pilgrims and conquerors,
Even the solitary David made into a Goliath, his calf slowly becoming his achilles heel,
Slaves emerging eternally unfinished from captivity in stone and marble,
The face of masculine beauty through the ages now meanders in unison in Uniqlo skinny jeans,
bespectacled and sinewy, into a Hong Kong lecture theatre to learn the English canon.
"They can do drama too there"
"No. They're quiet boys. They don't like acting".
"But to not even try"
Hong Kong's Michelangelo is a split infinitive
A pair of identical writers, writing their way into the spaces between
traditions that never resolve.
Their conjoined names echo through the old colonial building
On some drizzly, grey April afternoon in a lecture on Renaissance to Enlightenment
Only to reverberate back at them in the lecturer's wisecrack
"Sure don't we have our own Michelangelo here"
To which they blush into their dog-eared Vasari and his picture of beauty.
Until, one day, staring hand in hand into the floating forearm of the Biblical David,
His clasp of murderous artistry,
On some Florentine bank holiday,
They find their reflection
Somewhere between his adolescent pectorals and his nubile shanks
And our separated yin and yang dimensions resolve about them
As they write and write back to their holiday room
Through the air miles and into their Kowloon bedroom
Concocting in second-language words a Cantonese David
To sling at professor, patron and president.
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