There is nothing to hold me.
The marble floor is bare and hard.
The buttressed ceiling seems to swim
with coldest gusts—
From one end of the church, a burst
of piped-in choral music—Handel,
or is it Mozart? In tinny jubilation,
the voices of exuberance
pour from the candlelit apse.
A group of tourists pauses
before this church’s masterpiece,
Masaccio’s Trinity, their guide explaining
the precise new view arranged
by the deceptively painted panels
the artist contrived: there,
Masaccio created a room or temple
for Christ’s crucifixion, “an example
of the Renaissance’s first linear
perspective.” And here,
the false recesses of Masaccio’s chamber
contrast with the marble floors
and columns of the church that appears
so impermeable our flesh might slip
away from it, might fall and shatter.
Masaccio’s fresco holds Christ
against the slick, flat surfaces like bones
that do not hold a thing:
a corridor inside a temple
inside a room of time,
a place where he can hang
in our glance, an invented embrace.
God stands behind Christ,
a white dove on his chest.
God’s cloak is a cloud of dark blue.
He appears to support Christ
in his suffering
but that blue cloak billows
as if it were made of emptiness,
of cold and multiplying space.
Christ’s cross will tip back
and his body, barely fastened to it,
will tear through that thin, fading layer
of the artist’s color, tumble back
to a blackness that plummets
beyond surface, through a distance
without memory, without stars,
without God’s voice. And he
will have to suffer that falling.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.