Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mud Angels (Poem)

Mud Angels

     after the Florence Flood, 1966

1 ~ Call and Response

Come, come and look.
Come for the art.

And by the hundreds,
the thousands, they came:

Mud Angels clutching
colanders, slotted spoons,

tiny-holed sieves,
a volunteer army scooping,

filtering, straining the River Arno
of dissolving gesso flecks.

Come, come and look:

Come for the art
and keep the faith.

2 ~ Consequences

Mold worked faster
than fingers in muck,

blotting hands no match
for the sped-up decay.

Once gold-flecked, words
illuminating manuscripts

swelled, caught under arms
of gilded chairs,

Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise
lodged in Dante's Hell.

3 ~ Cimabue's Crucifix

Santa Croce's thrice-drowned
Son went limp, defeated

on his wooden cross,
his luminous pigment lifted

and swirling in painted water rising
skyward, his eyes closed

to his own suffering, the harm done
never undone.

© Maureen E. Doallas

In the unforgettable flooding of Florence in November 1966, thousands from across Italy and from many other countries answered a call to help save the artistic treasures buried in mud and waste. The volunteers came to be called "Gli Angeli del Fango", or "Angels of the Mud". You'll find a history, eye-witness accounts, photos, and more at Angeli del Fango. Information about the destruction of Cimabue's Crucifix of Santa Croce may be found here and here. Also of interest is the online exhibition "The Flood. 1966" by Kunsthistoriches Institut in Florence.


Joyce Wycoff said...

What a sad but wonderful story and your poem captures it so well. I love "mud angels."

Brian Miller said...

wow can you imagine...the last of the three of there really carried the weight of emotion for me...saving the art is a high calling...smiles.

S. Etole said...

I was not aware of this. Your poem portrays the event well.

Charles Miller said...

I really enjoyed this, crisp, wrought from intense sentiment, embedded in a history and everyday reality. Excellent work, and i think you have achieved that meeting of high art, history, and everyperson's concern for the what's it mean for me factor. Excellent work, simply excellent.

Ruth said...

What an image and great term: mud angels! Wonderful treatment of this story, Maureen.

jen revved said...

I love how you teach us all together with bringing these events to life. This has the feel of a silent Armageddon, a crucifixion of the human soul-- art is the best of us, at least the best that we think of as lasting and enduring... and then the Christ not rising but drowning-- totally amazing, Maureen. A beautiful, painstaking delineation, as ever. xxxj