On a Tapestry Copy of Guido Reni’s Slaughter of the Innocents

Stephen Gibson
| poetry


(Vatican Museum)


In this huge copy of Guido Reni’s

Slaughter of the Innocents, men of power

turn their backs on death and tourists;

soldiers avert their eyes as throats are slit

in much the same way goats have theirs, or

veal calves, when they’re yanked from teats

and left to drain so that the meat is tender.

I’m in Rome, it’s a hot July day in 2004,

in my left hand is a Vatican Museum ticket.

I’ve been waiting in line for hours for one door

to open—into the Sistine Chapel.  The floor

of the gallery is Travertine marble, I fake it

to a pretty Aussie girl beside me.  I ignore

thinking about Iraq when I stare at the tapestry.






Stephen Gibson is the author of five poetry collections: Rorschach Art Too (2014 Donald Justice Prize, West Chester University), Paradise (University of Arkansas), Frescoes (Lost Horse Press book prize), Masaccio’s Expulsion (MARGIE/Intuit House book prize), and Rorschach Art (Red Hen).