Vengeance

This is the piece of short fiction (which wasn’t chosen for publication) I wrote for the Ekphrastic challenge, the prompt painting After the Storm, by Istvan Farkas. I love the colours in this, purple and green together is among my favourite combinations.

Vengeance

The heavens opened five minutes after the Abbé left the presbytery. A real summer storm, short lived, but violent, driving rain and wind that thrashed green branches. The only shelter was at the top of the hill where the road wound beneath a spinney of oak trees. Someone was already there, a raggedy woman. The Abbé’s nostrils pinched in distaste and he nodded curtly. Clutching his useless umbrella, he turned his back on the woman and gazed firmly out across the heaving landscape.

“You’ll be late for your lunch if this keeps up,” the woman said. “Who is it this Sunday? Lefebvre? Fabre? Meunier?” Her voice was steady as the rain, and the Abbé heard insolence in it. He would not taint himself by replying. “He keeps a good table, Meunier, so I hear. And with the son a courtier at Bordeaux, the wine cellar’s bound to be good too.” The Abbé shuffled, and his stomach rumbled inopportunely. “But they’ll all feed you well. Any of those people. People worth traipsing the countryside in the rain for.” A malcontent, a starveling. The Abbé closed his ears. The wind howled and he heard the crack of thunder. “Not like poor folk. They’d not get you away from your warm fire. Not poor folk who have nothing to pay for a Mass with.” Bitter and envious. “You’d not stir yourself for them, not even if their bairns were dying.” He heard a catch in the steady stream of words. He had no idea who the woman was, but he had nothing to reproach himself with. The clouds hung black, swollen. “You’d think a man of God would have a bit of compassion though, wouldn’t you? Make an exception. A prayer wouldn’t have taken long, would it? It wasn’t the bairn’s fault that her mother had nothing to give.” The sob was unmistakeable now. “If she’d had the money, she’d have given it to the doctor. She might have still had a bairn now, not just a mound of fresh-turned earth outside the cemetery.” The Abbé cast his eyes at the sky, looking, not for spiritual guidance but for a let-up in the storm. “If there was any justice…”

The woman’s voice petered out, and the Abbé found his at last. “Do you dare threaten a priest of the Church?”

She stared through him. Her eyes were sunken, famished. She laughed, a dry, hoarse laugh that ended in a cough. “There is no justice, not here, not from men. But we all die, one day. I’d bear that in mind, Abbé Collet, if I were you.”

She pulled her shawl tight around her throat and, head bent, hurried out into the rain, back towards the village. The Abbé’s eyes narrowed and burned with what he was not allowed to call hatred. There was a time when the Church had been allowed to deal with witches like that. He glanced at the sky, looking for approval perhaps. Thunder growled and a flash of lightning winked at him from over the church tower.

He wondered what that wink signified later, in the last few agonising moments as he choked on a fishbone from Meunier’s otherwise excellent sea bass.

November ekphrastic poetry challenge

For the whole of November, Paul Brookes (The Wombwell Rainbow) is hosting an ekphrastic challenge. Our mission, for those of us who accepted it, is to write a poem each day of this month to a visual prompt sent by Paul. Today we had a choice. Mine was this painting by Marcel Herms entitled After Minnie Left .

Please visit Paul’s blog to read all of the contributions.

1MH After Minnie left, mixed media on canvas panel, 24 x 30 cm, 2020

The mouse in the corner

She had blood in her hair
and down her dress dripped,
her eyes wild with reflections of what had been,
seen and clean sheered away.

She ran out in the street with her wild hair
and bloodied lip, but she knew it would end
when the pavement ran out,
and her feet turned about,

that she’d hang her hurt head,
wipe the blood from her lip, tears shed,
and the sky would fall so low,
so hard and grinding grey.

Caught between stone and waiting fists,
shed tears, raining stony blows and blood-gout,
she would turn herself about
and walk

back.

Three sisters

1599px-Joaquin_Sorolla_-_Las_tres_velas

There’s a certain symmetry in the flowing white,
the billows of sail and veil, the wind behind,
and prow, heads, plunging onward.

The sun beats down on all women,
those who walk in parallel,
those who glide through the waters.

Feet drag through sand,
though keels slip, liquid smooth,
and the men guide the sails,

steering their flight, soaring,
while the women trudge, child-heavy,
into the falling dusk.

He remembers home

chimpanzee-congo-painting-1_orig

 

The hand that shapes the picture

holds a world in brush-stroked paint,

 

a glimpse of ghosted past, no future

in the black, the white, all swept away

 

so much debris in an ocean blue,

swallowed by the beast of distance,

 

and in the calm deeps of eyes,

so like yours and mine, despair.

 

He sees further, deeper far than we,

remembers things we never knew,

 

and in the mute, paint-laden brush,

a small life, sings its painted song

 

a life defined in an alien medium

by the unhealable pangs of loss.

Nights by the port

joaquin-torres-garcia-pintura_orig

Nights by the port

narrow streets dim-lit

they wait for some action

smokes red-glowing.

 

Street-walkers stationed pause

patient as saints for the clients to creep

furtive as foxes

or swagger flash-suited

 

out of the deep dark

drawn by the red glow

and the soft owl-call

of the unfledged.

 

Ship’s horn sounds

like a cow to the slaughter

harbour lights glow red

then green.

 

Act One

Forgot the deadline for Ekphrastic again.

Painting by Prudence Heward.

prudence-heward-at-the-theatre-kw2_orig

 

You feel the eyes boring into your back, stroking the

back of your neck, fondling the straps of your dress.

 

You accept because it is your role to be the

object of desire, the temptation of the flesh,

 

and like it or not, play along or not, whatever the

outcome, marriage or a sordid, messy affair,

 

you will take the blame, cherchez la femme,

temptress, Eve, weak and feeble woman,

 

so sigh and watch the play.

This is only the first act.

Words and pictures poetry challenge 2

Thank you for responding to last week’s challenge. The reblog buttons seemed to be out of action for some reason, so here are the links to your poems:

Ken at Rivrvlogr

Lisa at Tao Talk

Kerfe at K

Merril at Yesterday and Today; Merril’s historical musings

 

The tritina is a form that sounds easy…but isn’t. I’m pleased you gave it a try and even more pleased at the results.

This week I’ve chosen a painting for inspiration. It’s entitled Moscow Metro and it’s by Michael E. Arth. It’s an arresting scene, a moment caught on canvas, and I find myself thinking about that girl, who she is, where she’s going, and what the intense expression on her face signifies.

Michael_E._Arth_-Moscow_Metro-_oil_painting,_1980

I wasn’t going to inflict a particular form, but I think a cascade might be appropriate.

Have fun and post the link to your poem in the comments. I’ll reblog if the buttons work for me this week.

 

Hungry love

The painting by Maximilian Pirner used for last fortnight’s Ekphrastic challenge is called either Lovers in Small Boat or The Demon Love, depending on the way you look at it, I suppose. I didn’t send in the only response that came to mind.

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A holy terror he was, they said,

he took her down the river,

when they got in the boat

he ripped out her throat

and nibbled a piece of her liver.

Retreat

Screen Shot 2019-12-28 at 14.13.59

They abandon lighthouses now to the sea,

and waves crash on man-raised stone, submerging.

 

No need, they say, for such primitive markers, lamps and men

in isolation cleaning storm-proof panes and playing chess

 

for weeks on end, trapped in the hollow of a needle,

not now we have clean efficient GPS.

 

Waves crash as they have always done, the ocean swells,

storm and gale grinding stone to sand.

 

Is this what they really mean behind

the technical words, admission of defeat,

 

our hollow needles futile as Ozymandias’

raised finger when the ocean rolls?

Waves run

Second Ossawa Tanner poem. The first one is here

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Waves run and rise

wise as the tide that rides the world

and rounds it with a foam-frothed sleep.

 

Waves rise and run,

sun on the water and star-glitter in the night

lighting the way to hell and back.

 

Waves swell and fall,

tall as towers showering foam and froth,

spindrifting away on the wings of lost prayers.

 

Waves dark as the mouth of hell

swell and tell stories of the lost,

praying for sleep in the deep.

 

Waves, cloud and wind roar;

soar, petrels with storm in your wings,

a beam of light breaks through the coping of the sky.