da Vinci!

da Vinci specialists were asked to find living male descendants of the master so that scientists could use their DNA to match against samples of DNA that they believe to be da Vinci’s and that of da Vinci’s father. The Y chromosome remains basically unchanged throughout 25 generations, making male DNA ideal for this confirmation.


i have 13 new brothers

rejoice, though one of us may prove to be illegitimate
we might all share blood of the genius

together now
all of life one long chain
21 generations
690 years
and all of it is family

the historian:

how long have i plucked at these threads?
my life’s work
prodding my way through the dark towards your lives
hidden there you baby bodies (though the eldest among you is 103)
but still as if reaching into the womb of creation drawing you out
you whose face i suspected for years
and five of you, all at once
        (in my profession it is easy to forget the potential immediacy of the present)
it is my honor to have illuminated your sacred ancestry
a new fraternity born of
23 half brothers of the 14th century

i grew up in vinci
saw his statue on my way to school
i grew up in vinci
i knew his drawings from when i was yay high
and wondered which tree was the sapling of a certain etching

he had no sons
and yet i might have given him some

da vinci
did you see dragon flies fly at 80 frames per second?
with colors in your eyes as you wrote?
and the legend of your body
and the curse of your precocious aging
your left handedness, what a sweet trait, i adore it

what parts of you did i glimpse among these boys?
like looking at the progeny of a long ago lover
bumped into on the street
something subtle in the face
searching for the part i cherish
except, my absurd life, the little joke of my existence—i am doing it backwards

the scientist:

now i may swab the cheeks of these men
and i’ll dust notebooks for your oil
and we may illuminate humanity yet of your face
and your body
but first we must go into your fathers tomb
his begarlanded tomb in florence

and after to your own
unsightly as it is, worst that we may be the fourth to disturb your soiled burial place
put to rest finally my suspicions
it cannot be your bones there

no matter or no need for those
for i will arise you

what is genius?
it might be my work here

now i may swab the cheeks of these men
the line of male ancestry is good for male ancestry
yet we may recover the slave that was your mother
25 generations of unchanged genetics carried on the dowsing rod of the Y chromosome
so was it the bloody soil of this woman that sparked genius?
        for who are these remaining men…

but what is a genius?
your eyes
watching water move at 80 frames per second
my magic, casting your print against the wall
making you dance as no one has ever made you dance before

these brothers a merry fraternity
carrying about, good collaborators, the documents
calling relatives, enlisting more competition
still un jealous until i swab the cheek of these brothers of vinci
parsing illegitimate
from those whose gifts were bestowed upon italy and france, all of humanity
to those we should pay the proper respect
one expects, a life laid out in good style, as the repository of a unique estate

and how until an idiot longs to take a painting for his own?


i go to sleep with my heart soothed
we gathered in the stone cellar (that our wives are sisters to each other now!)
        of a fellow tonight
the night before we are to be swabbed
and these brothers of mine are so fine, that they proposed and we all agreed
that if there is an illegitimate one between us (as the historian explained
        all too common, one is claimed or not claimed, in the papers)
he shall remain a brother among us
we have spent these past six months carrying things and smiling
i at least, while sick to my stomach
not that i might have never been a child of a child to the great master
but that all this happiness might vanish, everyone is so happy for me for no reason
and i for them, we all trading on this joy for free
like one brother said, not because of the money!
but for the miracle of blood and history and all that has been accomplished that could lead us
up         back through time to Him

the chance to better glimpse his shadow, the investigating light levied through our bodies
young and old, healthy and sick, thin
or like those many of us who are round of stomach like the whole boar is inside them

light making of our organs pictures, that a spleen might set off the shape of his nose
that bile might become his hair, an armpit his shoulder, the lymph a coin in his ear
that in the laboratory of glowing skin and capillaries a simulacrum might appear

oh what a fragile thing it is though, kept fine and good through hope and focus
let no discordant note be struck within any of us once the science is done
nothing seeded by the one who will not be cheated
let us all jump in the pool holding hands at the same time
let no one remain on the lip

Shanti Escalante-De Mattei is a staff writer at ARTnews and jack of all trades on the side. ︎︎

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