Leonardo, Study, 1478
It was a century of ten thousand nativities,
and each artist prepared a catalog.
Here, he starts with a cow and ass,
and the ass is half-disappeared
in the dream of having carried Mary to legend—
both beasts attentive as actors,
as children examined of their Latin,
the horizon of their gaze
off the page.
Baby Jesu, immaterial just then.
(He shall be incorporated later.)
For fun we can call the ass Giocopo
and the cow, Liberti. What they are looking at—
the shine of the Magi’s crown
or hilted dagger, a sheaf of oats or timothy,
an oncoming landscape, or God,
we are unsure.
Today, and for point of argument
you can be, if not a wise man, Giocopo,
and I can be Liberti.
Let us assemble our manger slowly.
But assemble it.