Plaster of Paris

Fifteenth-century paper was handlaid—
a phrase that always recalls,
for me, corpses, muslin, spades.
The Louvre owns twelve notebooks
composed by Leonardo,
splayed in vitrines, most showing machines,
including the body, skulls and ribcages
reduced to windows.
But the final notebook’s cotton pages
are spangled with axes and sickles,
spears adorned with supernovae of spikes,
pen strokes oxidized the brown of old blood.
The mind of Leonardo,
like all masters, manufactured future pain.
He loved war for the knowledge
it provided him, of how the book of the body
divides its wet parchment
in deference to the blade
freshly stropped or stone-honed.

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