Botticelli’s Venus and Mars
Lying along the canvas, draped criss-cross
like scissors open to their widest yawn,
they touch but are as separate as stars;
his pearl and perfect body lies inert,
washed up, a drift of flotsam on the bank,
sleep-sodden, senseless, supine, satiate;
lips parted, one hand curving up for alms
which she has given him.
You would not know,
looking at her, perhaps; she’s poised, alert;
groomed to a hair – and then what hair it is,
ochre and fox fur, woven, looped and skeined
into the braided edging of her dress,
piercing a brooch where it becomes a gem,
emerging as another length of braid.
She is immaculate, unmarked by love;
no flighty Titian on a rumpled bed,
hair combed by urgent fingers; she’s as cool
and pristine in white silk as he is hot,
sweat drying, armour gone and war put off
until another day.
Her dimple shows
she’s quite aware the war’s already lost.