Falling and Michelangelo’s Failure

by John Bartlett

Michelangelo’s Failure

In 1991 Pierro Cannato

attacked Michelangelo’s David

with a hammer, ordered (he said)

by its model, Nani of Venice

for a failure to convey

the beauty of this nakedness

so how can words express

this adoration of skin

that made a jealous god, alarmed

by unexpected confluence of lust

and grace, to banish Eden’s naked pair

both more beautiful and dangerous

than he who made them

who knew when earth was void

that dust would shape into 

this symphony of limbs in motion

this machine god-crafted, pistoned

with rebellion, so full of

treachery in its perfection, too

prone to sin for

any god to sanction

yet, as years advance, betrayed

by scars and disappointments, this

naked beauty, transfigures, miraculous,

into an altered, mystic temple

far beyond some Michelangelo’s imagine

a wielded chisel  or even

what the god intended


John Bartlett is the author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.  He has published two poetry Chapbooks and his full collection Awake at 3am was just released by Ginninderra Press.  He was the winner of the 2020 Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize. He lives on the Surf Coast in southern Australia. Find out more about John’s work at beyondtheestuary.com and follow him on Twitter @beyond_estuary