Gorgeous, the minute I saw her, an emptiness around,
which I walked through. Wood golden, modeling
wax-dribbled. What he did with knives to the grain
of the wood, how he cut her— I bet he won commissions,
sermons. Beauty all his, of course, not hers.
Any woman could tell you: Donatello got it wrong.
There’s a place for desire, a blessing for it.
The body must do what it does, beginning with
the foot, a gesture of oils, sensual wet hair
uncombed. “He loved her more than all the disciples
and kissed her often on the mouth,” the apocryphal
gospel says—too graphic for the holy fathers
as they argued and picked the canonical truth.
She was lavish, excessive, never counted the cost.
Her exuberant sexual self is what he loved
and what they were afraid of. One put a hand
in his side. She whispered and kissed the wholly human.
Donatello got it wrong, stooped her penitent,
whipped to shame, shunned. Worm-eaten wood.
In rags. A sore on her lip.
I wrote my love
a postcard with a photo of the Magdalene.
I was in love with the heart of the wood, the woman within.
I saw but did not say the truth of it. Here it is.
Idris Anderson’s first collection of poems, Mrs. Ramsay’s Knee, was selected by Harold Bloom for the May Swenson Poetry Award in 2008. She has also published poems in The Hudson Review, The Nation, The Ontario Review, The Paris Review, The Southern Review, and other journals. “A Correction” is part of a new collection of poems, Body’s Grace. Idris Anderson lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. (5/2010)