Pieta: The Mary of Michelangelo

By on Aug 4, 2013 in Poetry

Michelangelo's Pieta

She’s a fulcrum of that moment
when piety loses heart and tilts
to unbelief. 

Her left hand falls open to ask, Why?
Like Job she accepts God’s power,
but with a dead son in her arms,
her understanding falters.
She bows her head, surrendering
to the crushing mystery. 

An elegant vessel of grief,
she’s larger than
the vanquished form she holds.
The ample folds of her robe
can’t swaddle him into warmth,
nor her full breasts
nurse him back to health. 

The artist has placed her
where we all go in despair—
inside a memory. There,
too young for this grown son,
she’s an eighteen-year-old girl
cradling her newborn. 

Here, her forlorn shape collapses
into a triangle of stone within which
she, her son, and death are one.




Translator, scholar, and poet, Lynn Hoggard has published five books and hundreds of articles, poems, and reviews. She teaches French, English, and Humanities at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, and is a past president of the American Literary Translators Association. In her view, poetry clarifies and distills meanings that are already implicit in things.