Artemisia Gentileschi: Ma Vaffanculo, Giudice: A Poem

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I paint what I see,

I paint what I feel,

I paint who I am,

Who I was forced to become,

Forced to endure,

The weight of men,

The judgement of men,

Their minds

Detached from their hearts

And bodies, the bodies of women

Piling up,

I won’t disintegrate amongst the names

You discard, no, I won’t,

I will resurrect each and every one of them

Alongside my own body,

Give their bodies their robbed pinned-down

Strengths back.

Father, you watched me,

Guided me, saw the sparkles electrify in my fingers,

The passion in my eyes,

The creativity, benevolent,

I was born once more

And you were there and watched me grow,

Held the brushes, held me, supported

Me, then and there, I’m your daughter,

Artemisia, what does my name sound like

In your body, in your closed mouth,

In your helpless hands, the shame you accepted,

Artemisia, are you listening to rotten

False echoes of my name, the one you gave me,

Baptised me with, what are you doing to my name,

Father? Why are you standing there?

Hands in the air?

Restless, speechless, I’m your daughter, here, over here,

Why can’t you see me anymore?

You knew me, I thought, by my brushstrokes,

My truth, my light that shone through,

My pacifism through the release of art,

The threads between us are thinning,

We are becoming too heavy for each other,

Everything that rustled and wrestled and galloped

Between us, I carry the wound and you inflict another.

You let me go before I could walk.

You joined my fight, my cause, in defence of my name, ours.

I picked myself up with a strength unknown, unseen,

And I left you all there, open-mouthed, repulsed, gasping for air,

Repentant, I don’t know, I don’t care, anymore.

I speak my own language, I know how to heal my body,

The one with all the colours and traces,

The one that felt the bitterness of unfulfilled promises,

Emptiness, the crimes of men, the killer-hearts of men,

The stab wounds, the lecherous prayers, the blots

That you tried to defy, defile, incriminate, infiltrate,

Infect, mark and curse me with, eternalising yourself, Agostino,

You poor, rotten thing, you starved soul, scared shitless,

I endured you and the pain you distribute, I have survived you,

And all your forces and regiments of terror and accusation,

I paint you out of my body, your gaze, your tongue, your hands,

Your sex, your sins, your destructive lust, your overpowering flesh,

It’s all there, outside of me, I rid myself of your brutish sickness,

I sucked out the poison that you left within me,

I took it and created it anew, in your face, in your name,

Decomposition, recomposition, you’ll hear my name

And the territory that you tried to mark, claim and sully

Is gone, your ugliness lies in my paintings, for all to see,

The regurgitating viciousness and masks and shells and forces

Of men, in your face, in their faces, postures and expressions,

I paint, I cut heads off, I paint, every muscle is active,

I paint, I stab, canvas, you took my flesh and skin,

I master, I master the arts, I master the canvas, I master my own heart,

I master the colours, the tastes on your tongue,

I last through the ages, my art, and your crime and dirty name

Become eternal, withering beneath the weight of my paintings,

I conquered, I reclaimed myself and everything I could do,

You swallow your own poison on canvas, I draw you in,

Absorb yourself, take yourself in, I never lay a finger on you

And yet I set the culture within you on fire,

The culture that excused you, trusted you, cradled you,

Encouraged you, afire, afire, I hold brushes and palettes,

I won’t be extinguished, I took my body that you tried to shatter

And rebuilt every single piece of me with a greater force,

A greater determination, a greater passion for life and my

Own sex, creation against destruction, I paint what I see,

I paint what you put into me, I paint what I feel,

I paint what you tried to rid yourself of,

I hold it and transform it, I don’t idealise,

I show you as you are, I erect worlds of heroines,

Of languages, bodies, indivisibility and power,

Of women that are present, active and stand tall.

Allegoria della Pittura” by Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656)

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