Ode to Botticelli and the Beginning of Spring

In the corner of Ognisanti is a marble circle
………. on the floor of a chapel to mark the tomb
of Sandro Filipepi, better known as Botticelli,
………. and on the railing is a basket for notes,
which I think will be from artists–How can I mix
………. your celestial blue? O Sandro, is the woman
with the flowers cascading from her mouth
………. in La Primavera Persephone being dropped
to earth, and once her toe touches the ground, Spring
………. can commence? But the note on the top of the basket
says: Caro Sandro–What beauty! I wish I could speak
………. Italian better. I want to find love. What is beauty?
I ask Keats this question every day. Socrates was said
………. to be an ugly man, and yet he had an inner beauty
that shone like a lamp in a dark room, of which there are
………. so many these days, rooms filled with the fire
so many of us carry unbanked in our hearts and even deeper
………. in our bodies, and Keats writes in a letter
about life being a mansion with many rooms, the first
………. childhood, which is thoughtless, and next the room
where we begin to think, but we are beset by the misery
………. of the world and the darkness descends
on our palace, or maybe it’s like the game show
………. with the three doors, and we always choose
the lawnmower and never the vacation in Monte Carlo,
………. and I think of Muiccia Prada saying ugly is exciting,
and remember walking down the Rue de Four in Paris
………. as a young woman, and in the midst the chic shops
was a window of maid’s uniforms, and I thought, That’s
………. weird. Usually the uniform shop is not next door
to Chanel. But it was Prada, which for some reason
………. makes “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” pop up
on my inner television set, but there’s a little girl at the end,
………. who says, “But the empress is wearing
a maid’s uniform,” and what of the maids, who clean
………. the rooms in hotels? They don’t want to wear
their uniforms out to dinner with their boyfriends
………. or to a dance, but Baudelaire nailed it when he said,
“What is exhilarating in bad taste is the aristocratic
………. pleasure of giving offense.” So, rich people
wear your maid uniforms if you wish, but I prefer
………. a Schiaparelli evening jacket with exploding
stars embroidered in silver thread though my only money
………. is words, and we know how much that brings
in the market, though in the Botticelli-Keats Emporium
………. of Truth and Beauty, words are like stars
and made from their dust as are we all as we travel
………. down the streets of our time in the world.

Barbara Hamby

Barbara Hamby

Barbara Hamby is the author of six books of poems, most recently Bird Odyssey (2018) and On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems (2014), both published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. This poem is from her new manucript, Holoholo, which is all odes. Other odes in the book have appeared in American Poetry Review, Tampa Review, and The New Yorker.
Barbara Hamby

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Author: Barbara Hamby

Barbara Hamby is the author of six books of poems, most recently Bird Odyssey (2018) and On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems (2014), both published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. This poem is from her new manucript, Holoholo, which is all odes. Other odes in the book have appeared in American Poetry Review, Tampa Review, and The New Yorker.