The Death of Venus: Florence, 1476
She's beautiful, but a lousy model — can't keep still,
always shifting her weight from one foot to the other,
yawning, letting her shoulders sink.
Today, it's the cough bringing color
to her luminous complexion, shaking her
like a sapling in the breeze.
Perhaps if you open the window —
his assistant offers, so Botticelli concedes to let
a little of Florence in to bathe Simonetta in its glow.
She resumes the pose and he the brush,
and for a while he forgets she's married to one man
and sleeping with another; for now, at least, she's his.
He'll make the notorious Mrs. Vespucci
into the blonde bombshell of the Rennaissance,
and when he dies he'll be buried at his muse's feet —
but today, all she wants is another almond
from the tray. Don't get fat, he wants to say,
but she's coughing again,
and it doesn't sound good.
She wipes the blood off her hand
on the back of the pink cloth
where he can't see.
She's not going to get fat.
She's only 22, and won't make it to 23.
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