Body Sonnets VIII: The Magdalen

by Rachel A. Dilworth

Cresting the gradual stairs in the Museo Del Duomo,
you come to the Magdalena, who is nearly a river
of hair. Here clothes, if they be clothes, Donatello
has ragged to tresses that leave her only more bare ?
snaking the bight of her thigh’s line, giving
rib into hip ? in their tumbling watery upset.
How it engulfs her, how it falls and falls, this living
hair ? this impression of restraint unkept.
How right, you think, knowing she simply caved
to abandon in that moment when she knelt
and wept. Standing, she looks not beautiful or saved
but tender, wretched, aching with all she has felt.
Supplication is want. Is this, you wonder,
what we feel before the devils go, or after?