The Ekphrastic Review prompt was this painting, Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels, by Jean Fouquet. I wrote three poems as different aspects of the painting. They won’t be published, in Ekphrastic, but I’m posting them here.
The putti pout
Did they know, his entourage, the trouble his birth would cause? Did she know, his mother? Her look is undisguised dislike, pinching her nostrils as she bares her breast, as if to say, Well, here it is, what I was conscripted for. Would they have rather been playing bawdy games, the frowning putti with their angry disapproving faces?
They had had fun as pudgy, winged toddlers when their playmates were Cupid and the Bacchantes, but those days were over and, like Mary, their role was fleshy innocence, background noise, a fandom for the stern-faced infant who was to rule the world.
Did they see the wars, the crusading fanaticism that would spring from such unsmiling prudery? Perhaps. Then again, perhaps they saw only the change in fashion that had painted them, resentful tots, into a prison of po-faced purity.
behind the clouds
wild spring races on goose wings
The girl dreams
The girl sleeps, head beneath the blanket,
while wind stirs the sand and the darkness,
stars flutter and foxes pad.
She is light again, the slender child no one notices,
and the air is silent except for the wind,
the sand sighing and the foxes hunting.
The angry insect buzz of voices is still,
the rosy over-fed cherub voices,
chubby pointing fingers gone,
and she curls foetus-like
around the empty belly that was never really hers
and will never fill with a child of her own,
the belly flat and arid
as the desert beaten by night winds,
so far from the stars.
The painter paints
He rages like the furious putti he paints
at the girl bride, his wife, so full of promises unfulfilled,
slender as a willow wand,
and he paints her breasts round as moons,
full and milky, full as cherub cheeks
and baby buttocks.
The hand refuses to round the belly,
and paints instead the mocking smirk
he imagines that denies the presence
of the rubicund boy
should be her lap,
whose cradle her arms.