Friday, April 8, 2011

ImageWord - poems inspired by photographs and art

Over the years I have written poems inspired by photographs and art. I have posted some of these here in earlier posts. I thought I would gather a few and post them as one ImageWord experience. Have a look.

The Prodigal by Rembrandt, 1662

Return of the prodigal

After the reggae hard-beat, the Haitian guitars and the delicate mazouk,
the unattainable sloe-eyed dancers, sips from forbidden chalices,
and the inevitable descent to the wood-and-zinc
shack—you came to count your losses,
exhume, with some embarrassment, his unread letters,
raise, to your startled heart, his shameless wishes—

then, giving up your feet and hands to love’s caressing fetters,
you arrived again in the familiar yard, to the evening’s last trumpet.

Photo by (c) Leo Spa St. Helene (1927 - 1988), St. Lucian photographer


In the photograph she stands well braced
in the doorway of the shack: her back is placed

upright firm against one frame, the left arm reaches across the open door
to hold the other frame. Standing as she does, her feet are wedged on the floor’s

corner in front of her. That left arm, those locked feet, that braced back,
block the entrance. He is more relaxed: facing her, no lack

of confidence, standing outside the shop, left elbow on the window sill,
right leg nearer us, rod-firm, left leg angled at the knee toward her; the sharp felt-hat fills

his profile with shadow, so we don’t have a face; a fruit in his hands. So,
Mam, why so firmly angled? Your posture is saying no

entry, but aren’t you (unsmiling, holding tight on the door jambs,
anchoring the open door at your back, securing the white painted borders,) praying
hard against those well-suited charms—

and the sign painted above your head on the shack concurs—


Photo (c) Alley Shmael


Don’t be distracted by the parted thighs
the elbow folding in a model’s pose
the casual chemise and slipping skirt—

do you dare to enter the navel of her world
the enigmatic neither come nor go of her watching
your every moving thought

to know her tracks and valleys and gardens
and coal-pits, her songs and secret places
her white yam and salt fish

and all the rest of her life in Babonneau hamlets
that this alluring sphinxe
now guards?                                              

The incredulity of St. Thomas. Caravaggio, 1602

In Caravaggio's ikon

In Caravaggio’s ikon of Thomas seeing Christ
all eyes are locked to the doubter’s firm finger
poking around the torn flesh, under

the strong hand of the Carpenter. Thomas,
Apostle to our secular, mocking, murderous
new age, meeting his worst-case scenario

with the firm grit of flesh under his thumb
that index of incarnation— incarnation, Immanuel
God is with us — under the impossible rubble

as we claw at the unimaginable earthfall, Immanuel—
over the body of someone’s son fallen in crossfire
in shrieking shadowlands of betrayal

through terminal disorientation of disease, Immanuel.
Because that wound is real, the death was certain
here, beyond reason, beyond the apocalypse

of private disasters, is something else
is Life beyond life, beyond heartbreak
beyond assassination, beyond the tremblor

at 3 in the afternoon, beyond the amnesiac cancer of the mind.
Here, under our finger, is faith, here is hope,
and He asks us, against the brutal heel on the locked door

the harsh fist of imploding earth
the shroud covered bier—
“Love one another.”

All poems (c) John Robert Lee

No comments:

Post a Comment