I have just been reminded by my friend Maria Adams (mariadams.com) that it is International Women’s Day…she has posted a photo of beautiful yellow mimosa. Which reminded me of a poem I wrote (a sestina, if we’re being technical) in which the symbolic mimosa looms large…
Dancing at the Uffizi with the Virgin Mary
(a maid’s homage to Artemisia Gentileschi)
I will bring yellow mimosa poised to flower
entreat you to lay aside your brush and dance
into the bustling street. We’ll make our way together
past Cattedrale di Santa Maria in search of corridors
and high ceilings, we shall spread our arms like wings,
laugh, defy the man who violates your dreams.
And even though suicide asp and Holofernes haunt your dreams
and Tassi laughs, paying lightly when he plucked that flower,
even though your hour is dark, you can wear an angel’s wings,
invite, too, the Virgin Mary to step in and dance
past grooved pillars, council chambers, through corridors;
with yellow mimosa in our hair, we shall laugh together.
Past Titian, Michelangelo, Raphael, together
with Ognisanti’s great works that inspire dreams
past frescos of many hues, ceilings in wide corridors
past bureaucratic doors, like buds in spring we’ll flower
offer wisdom and tenderness as we dance
through the Uffizi, wearing angels’ wings…
And though Tassi, and now Pietro, try to clip your wings
prefer to gamble not paint or spend hours together
allow debt, like sundown, to creep in, and will not dance,
although they try to sap a young woman’s dreams,
and talk is not of art but a case in court and that lost flower
we shall be bold, like Judith, not shun these corridors…
Through intimidating and majestic corridors
with Mary, Judith and her maid, we’ll spread our wings
we’ll combine brushstroke, light and hue to grow a flower
and with vitality and warmth we’ll mix together
a palette rich in reality and dreams,
round pillars and through ancient doors we’ll dance.
Watch our feet tremble and our pulse quicken as we dance
the galliard and canario through shadowed corridors
and when at last it’s time to leave, don’t leave those wings
rather, let’s continue through the streets together
past the Duomo, scatter a trail of yellow mimosa flower.
…and now you truly dance, dispense with those wings
sing through corridors and laugh together
unfurl your dreams from bud to flower…
Artemisia Gentileschi, artist, lived 1593-1652/3, was raped by the tutor her father engaged for her, Agostino Tassi. The case was brought to court, after Tassi refused to marry her, to save her “honour”. Tassi was found guilty but although banished from Rome, returned within four months. There was subsequently more interest in Gentileschi with regard to the rape, than in her art, though she was already an accomplished artist. She married Pietro Stiattesi in 1612, but he gambled and the marriage eventually ended.
Much of her subject matter represented strong women and challenged mainstream attitudes towards women.
Holofernes was an Assyrian general who besieged Bethulia where Judith, a Jewish widow of a nobleman, lived. She and her maid murdered him by posing as emissaries at a feast and encouraging him to become drunk, then decapitating him with a sword.