Yes, ginger and cardamom, a couple | other notes—wood
and spice—perhaps | some amber. This, Bethany knows,
is spikenard from her savior’s | anti-fungal cream, sublimed
in her hair | when she clasped his feet between her hands
days before his death. Many Marys gather | in the studio,
audition to pantomime | what will become a masterwork.
Bethany, fervent believer in the method | school of modeling,
offers some spikenard | to Magdalene, whom Caravaggio
wrongly casts with Martha. Everyone | knows that
Magdalene is the wrong Mary. | Truth is often staged.
Yet one kernel of the real story is | preserved: Martha’s
mid-preach mouth | when Magdalene realizes how many
martyrs have yet to die. Martha | and the wrong Mary
break character, | gaze off-frame to locate Bethany,
to plead Caravaggio correct this narrative. | Bethany?
Already withdrawn | from the studio stenched with cattle
tallow spotlights. Withdrawn to smash | more bottles
of nard, to perfume | the sterilized feet of her dying
brothers laid end-to-end in the glass | monolith
of [name-your-] hospital | turned reluctant lazaret.
Scott Chalupa writes to live in an attic on the margin of Columbia, SC, where recently earned an MFA at the University of South Carolina. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The South Atlantic Review, HIV Here & Now, Tupelo Quarterly, tap literary magazine, Jasper, and other venues.