Michelangelo’s David is too smooth and fair
and too Italian—too much like a boy
who’d stand with a mandolin beneath a stair
and serenade his girl; who would enjoy
good wine and food and music and would dress
in fashion, go disguised to carnival,
study Castiglione and play chess,
greet friends at the rialto and the mall.
Coifed hair and slender build can’t represent
the boy who shivered under naked stars
or sat nights by a watchfire, vigilant
for wolves, his legs and wrists circled with scars
from grappling with wild beasts; his hands calloused
from handling rocks and strong from hefting sheep
onto his shoulders when they were hurt or lost—
his nurture of the flock he had to keep.
Bernini, rather, caught the boy we see
in First Samuel: he grasps the leather sling,
fitting the stone in, aiming angrily
at blaspheming Goliath, tensed to fling
death at his forehead. The rough sheepskin pouch
that held the five smooth stones is crude and plain.
The zeal for God is etched into the crouch
of his body and he hardly can contain
his anger at the curses, at the scorn
the Philistine has flung against the host
of God. He frowns. Tomorrow Gath will mourn.
Goliath’s pride will be an empty boast.