Saturday, 31 May 2008

Portrait of Anna Akhmatova, 1915 after Natay Altman

The poet sits in a chair,
(a study in geometry)
slightly reclined, her back rigid,
one foot resting on a wooden step
the other hanging from where her right leg crosses
the left at the knee.
She is a lightning bolt draped in a Prussian blue dress
(its neckline plunging to a V across her flat chest)
and wrapped in a golden scarf wound around her arm,
bent at a right-angle.
In the background –
a cubist garden of multi-faceted crystalline excrescences
echoed by
her hooked nose,
sharp chin,
smooth cheekbones
and incisive clavicles.
Her flesh is coloured like alabaster,
framed by a straight fringe of black hair
tied back tightly.
An amalgamation of planes and angles,
yet the painting hinges on her left shoulder's
near-spherical appearance –
a moon around which we all revolve.

© GB 2008

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Non-native Species

Ring-necked Parakeet
Psittacula krameri

A May morning,
Not yet five and only a hint of blue in the air –
A very pale watercolour wash.
They announce themselves with screeching cries;
Their purposeful flightpaths, emerald streaks.

They dart between birch and beech and disappear.
Experts at deception, only the hook of their ruby bills
Can unmask them between the leaves.
Fugitives, they live off scavenged fruit
And hunch in tree cavities and crevices overnight.
Perhaps a hundred of them riot in the treetops,
Attracting the authorities’ attention.

On looking up they will see vapour trails
That were once sure of their destinations; shakily cross,
Then stutter out of existence.

Chinese Mitten Crab
Eriocheir sinensis

Accidental stowaways,
Concealed in the murky ballast of ships.
Arthritic, they scuttle and scrabble
Over other creatures dredged from the ocean bed -
A mass of flesh and scales and shells and mud.

They sprawl, unable to get their footing,
Their freakish claws (matted with hair)
Waving uselessly in the timeless dark,
Agape, knocking and clattering
As they stretch above the putrefying sludge.

And suddenly, without warning, the pumps dump
Them into wan sunlight and cold water.
So they clamber along riverbanks and riverbeds, a continuous traffic
Heading upstream against the sometimes raging flow.

Scarlet Lily Beetle
Liliocerous lilii

Unmistakable. A bead of blood
That has collected and run
Like dew along the pinstriped
Leaves and rolled up against the heavy
Flower bud drowsing in the heat.

A solitary beetle looking so conspicuous -
Its glaring carapace the colour of drunken kisses
Against the starched white petals.

Its antennae tremble with devotion
As its mandibles lock into the leathery leaf -
A pilgrim enrapt.

© GB 2008