Monday, March 14, 2016

The Tribute Money

Tim Keane

After Masaccio

His copper gold halo circles over soft white halo circles and so, to start, a penciled halo drawn in an easy turning circle, smoothly perfect circle penciled easily back round the circle. Halo. Soft-white hair layered in curls under his halo, curvy locks drawn on a round scalp, drawn easy enough with a loose grip, easing into a looser trembling grip to let the curls overlap, drawn feathery, curls penciled loose to an end with smoke-shading for the start of his neck. Perfect shade scratches. Soft-making.

How the blue mantle gives off a sea green shadow under his bunchy sleeve, drawing the shadow in cloudy circles, the charcoal pressed to paper first lightly then giving off sharp lines, fast lines, smoky soft and fast, penciling down his arm with light shaking traces smoothing straight to the robe cuff, a tremble-gentle circle of cuff, tracing down wrist-to-hand and round to closed fingers, fleshy knuckled fingers, drawn soft. The fingers of the other hand peek under the sleeve touching the orange gold, a tender hand-peek under the robe folds. Perfect. Also-perfect down from his left shoulder in fabric-light lines, traces with shadowed folds, bends, how the robe glows orange-gold: a fresco orange-gold: color-heat: heaven rich orange. And the sun on his robe darkens the thick folds.

Down to draw feet, penciling a liquid outline, tracing feet, toes, a shaded heel, rounded in half circles, almost perfect now, back up, tracing again along the waves of fabric line fronting his robe, trembling lines, penciled so, and perfect, and how much perfect in the soft lines, the body full now even without the finished face: saint Peter: fisher of men: deep eyes: solemn boned: staring down at his own hand extended there, paying out as Jesus says to pay, handing over and knowing in his moment, in the giving, from deep dark Palestine eyes looking at his loss, tribute money: eyes telling us all the while how much more than coins he hands to the leaning man in red.

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Tim Keane is the author of the poetry collection Alphabets of Elsewhere (Cinnamon Press). His award-winning writing has appeared in Modern Painters, Shenandoah, Denver Quarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Reader (UK) and numerous other publications. He teaches writing and European literature at BMCC, CUNY, in lower Manhattan.  web site:

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