. Benvenuto Cellini’s Salt-Cellar A woman sitting back, just mildly curious To hear a man’s contrived, seductive patter, Waiting to see what fabrications spurious He’s dreamt up now. It doesn’t really matter— She has no interest in him beyond this: The day is long, his chitchat passes time; In half an hour he’ll move in for a kiss Which she'll adroitly dodge with her sublime Smile of polite refusal that disowning Passion, still says “I’m not at all straitlaced.” He’ll go back to his monologue-ish droning, Regretting the miscalculated haste. She understands men, and this bearded fool Is even denser than the average male— So she relaxes, and maintains her cool, Letting him go on with his bogus tale. The Earth and Sea in conference divine, The prelude to a sacred, mystic love? That’s what dull iconographers opine— Cellini would corroborate the above. . . Hic Est Calix… Benvenuto, I am certainly sorry to come back from the Pope with such commands as I have received; you must either produce the chalice on the instant, or look to your affairs. —Words of the Governor or Rome, Gregorio Magalotti, to Benvenuto Cellini concerning a long-delayed chalice ordered by Pope Clement VII. from The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini I, 52 (trans. J.A. Symonds) To please the disaffected, angry Pope Cellini cunningly devised and wrought Two centaurs twisting on a chalice-stem (Meanwhile the Dons dragged home from Yucatan Great barbaric wheels of beaten gold). My lord the Cardinal, back from Fiesole (Doter on antiquities, he keeps A sinuous Venus in his privy chamber) Would have the cup; offers three hundred ducats By messenger. The rabid Florentine Was in some fit—had almost killed his whore— And flung a pewter tankard at the page Who dropped down senseless, like a poleaxed ox. Take this chalice to my lord the Cardinal To make his water in, not God’s pure blood! The boy reviving, brings word back. My lord Starts, but smiles, and sends a thousand ducats. Still in the Duomo, there at Fiesole, Sacerdotal fingers raise the cup And round its stem, that holds the living God, The playful centaurs toss their heads and laugh. . . Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.