Ekphrastic Poetry

I Carve to the Beat of the Heart

After Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

From her high window
an arc of blue
almost Aegean
where white gulls circle
and mew against
a canvas of Cornish light.

Below an oasis of shadows
palms and mirroring pools,
a garden
where sculptures grow like trees;

an ochre jacket, overalls stiff
with dust, still expectant
behind the greenhouse door
mallet, chisel, drill,
the paraphernalia of a mason’s art
seem only momentarily set aside.

On her bench a block of stone
white, unhewn, waits
in perpetuity for her hands

In the silence
her heartbeat,
the punctured cry of gulls

Nude with Blue Cushion

Jeanne Hébuterne, Modigliani’s mistress, committed
suicide on his death, while nine months pregnant, by
throwing herself from a window

They deepen, satiated with desire,
like the filming of trout pools
by the clouding of the sun, her sloe-black
burnt-black almond eyes.

Everything begins with the skin:
soft flesh gleaming in the knowledge
of its own perfection, recalling the recent
pleasure of his hand, the current pull of the brush.

Here she is all present, her
hip, navel, thigh utterly surrendered
to the iridescence of madder hues,
the fullness of his love.

Elongated as a languid cat
she lies, a crooked arm angling her head
against the little cushion of faded blue
reveals its damp pit of tangled hair.

Softened by hashish and hunger
she does not now concern herself with sous
or grey morning’s marketing of bread.
Jeanne maybe? Her future as yet unwritten:

backwards, nine months with child,
through that high window.
For chaos and sweet death tonight lie drugged
with a flush of carmine, of Venetian red.

From Everything Begins with the Skin
Published by Enitharmon 1995

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