His mentor stands aside, stolid as ice,
patient, waiting for the next brush stroke.
The boy dabs detail, angles his head
to assess perspective. In his mind,
paint is luminous as words that would roll
from his tongue and sing in a voice
not yet a man’s. The easel stands
at the side of the room near a window
where July sun is at its brightest.
The boy is unsure of his next move
because the mentor has taught him
empty spaces and silences count.
The mentor steps toward the painting,
shadows a touch on the boy’s shoulder.
The boy turns a hesitant smile toward
the older man. The finished painting
is a near perfect representation
of the boy’s seventeen-year-old face,
handsome as Antinous, and, like Hadrian,
the boy is the mentor’s weakness.
They share an embrace of attitudes,
agree on the painting’s success.
To celebrate the end of an apprenticeship,
the mentor brings out a bottle of Lambrusco.
Even though the boy has not reached drinking age,
the occasion warrants a social violation,
and so the wine is poured, wets each of their lips
like a surrogate kiss.


R. Nikolas Macioci earned a PhD from The Ohio State University, taught for Columbus City Schools for thirty years. OCTELA, the Ohio Council of Teachers of English, named Nik Macioci the best secondary English teacher in the state of Ohio. Nik is the author of eighteen books.