November Ekphrastic Challenge: Day 27

Paul Brookes’ challenge Day 27, and the image is We never learn, mixed media by Marcel Herms. When I read the title, my eye skipped the comma and read it as We never learn mixed media. The poem and my interpretation of the image is skewed by the missed comma.

MH27 We never learn, mixed media on paper, 11 x 22,9 cm, 2020

Thor Sledgehammer

Give me something I can do,
a task to make me feel useful,
valued; give me the one thing
I have ever been taught to use.

Let my hands take that tool
and wield it, the spanner
that unbolts the sky.

November Ekphrastic Challenge: Day 25

Today’s poem for Paul Brookes’ challenge is inspired by this painting, They’re supposed to be my dreams by Marcel Herms.

MH25 They're supposed to be my dreams, mixed media on paper, 21 x 29,7 cm, 2019


This is what you get, says the Sandman,
teeth and hands red and running,
this is what you get because there’s nothing else.

I shake my head until it almost drops off,
limp as a frost-bitten rose bud,
and the ocean stretches deep and blue and glittering.

The bringer of nightmares turns
away, and the world goes black
as a Sandman’s cloak, but in the dark

the waves still gleam
with the dancing of dolphins
and the golden sheen of apples,

and I smile
because he doesn’t know
that there are dreams too.

November Ekphrastic Challenge: Day 24

For Paul Brookes’ challenge, the prompt is They say that about the meek by Marcel Herms.

MH24 They say what about the meek, mixed media on canvas, 60 x 50 cm, 2019

Ask no questions, hear no lies.

No rest for the wicked, they say,
the devil makes work for idle hands
and takes the hindmost,
but God helps those who help themselves.

Let me have men about me that are fat.

And we, the meek and mild,
the children and their mothers,
the poor and the dispossessed,
the widow who handed over her mite,
we who wait on the side lines for
those promised crumbs from the rich man’s table?

You have a lean and hungry look.

Blessed are those, they reply,
who turn the other cheek,
so as not to see the blow fall
at the other side of the street.

The earth teems with the meek
with no voice, the four-footed,
the winged; all creep into the abyss
made for them by the fat and sleek.

November Ekphrastic Challenge: Day 22

There are three image prompts for today’s poem, all of which fit in somewhere. You can see all three on Paul Brookes’ site (my quota on WP is almost full). The one below is by Marcel Herms, Kid Blue going to the city.

MH22 Kid Blue going to the city, mixed media on paper, 27,5 x 29,7 cm, 2020

A new day

The kind of thing we write in stories:
the downfall of concrete,
the uprising of the oppressed,
the green and blue,
les sans dents;

how the sky opens
above the fog and smog
and human filth
and pours, green and growing,
out of the broken flagstones.

When the night trees gather
their peace and let it fall
on the grey, washing it with the colours
of bird feathers, then the earth will sing,
the oceans wash clean our bones.

November Ekphrastic Challenge: Day 21

For Paul Brookes’ challenge, the painting I chose is I need a private world by Marcel Herms.

MH21 I need a private world, mixed media on paper, 24,3 x 31,6 cm, 2019


When the wheels spin, I spin,
leaf, feather, world, it all spins
to the rhythm of my turning pedals.

Sky flashes
flecked with birds swooping,
leaves falling,

unknown voices drift
in and out of my ear,
clear as blue, limpid.

Then they bark,
the parents at the end of the garden,
peering over the gate,

straining with narrow eyes.
They bark about safety
and horrors at the end of the lane,

drawing in my chain.
I strain, push pedals
but the spinning fails;

they reel me in with their
mastiff authority, heavy jowled—
I wish I could fly.

November Ekphrastic Challenge: Day 20

For Paul Brookes’ challenge. The paintings are Glory to the Newborn King by Marcel Herms and Moonrise by Terry Chipp.

MH20 Glory to the newborn king, mixed media on cardboard, 30,2 x 40,6 cm, 2020

The Evangelists

They come with a message, they say,
and it might be peace, might be war,
all depends on how you take it
or not.

So many of them know what’s best
for everyone else,
some with their faces hidden,
some bloated and swollen over the glittery screens.

They know,
they have ways,
blunt as the muzzle of an assault rifle
or populist prose,

subtle as subliminal advertising.
They drown us in their poisonous diktats,
the swell powerful and dispassionate
as the flood of a moonlit ocean.

TC 20 Moonrise

November Ekphrastic Challenge: Day 19

The painting Er gaan koppen rollen (Heads will roll) by Marcel Herms is the inspiration for this poem, day 19 of Paul Brookes’ challenge.

MH19 Er gaan koppen rollen, mixed media on cardboard, 30,1 x 39,8 cm, 2020


Little man

It starts with the scattered toys,
the possession and destruction, little brother
creeping to mother to cry, whinge,
your defensive fists clenching
and denial of the broken shards,
the wheels and sprung guts of toys.

Then at school,
your defence of the right answer,
denouncing the cheat, the one who
is lost, muddled, left behind,
the sly jibes that make them all laugh.

He’ll go far, that one, they say.
He looks out for himself.

And you did, do, will,
you are there, with your many faces
all the same, looking down at us
from the high places,
signing the papers
that will scatter the shards
and sprung guts of the world.

November Ekphrastic Challenge: Day 18

For Paul Brookes’ challenge, the paintings are Daussen ist feindlich by Marcel Herms and Making contact by Terry Chipp.

MH18 Draussen ist feindlich, mixed media on paper, 17 x 17 cm, 2020


The film outside

Boot-clatter, shrill shriek
silent knife-slip, bullet-rattle,
and blood pools in the shadows.

It’s cold outside,
say the dead,

and we tip-tap, click and post,
trapping the thrill in real time
for global applause.


TC18 Making contact

November Ekphrastic Challenge: Day 17

The paintings for day’s ekphrastic challenge are Macedonian balcony by Terry Chipp and Domoren en dromers by Marcel Herms.

TC17 Macedonian Balcony


it’s not safe out there, the parents say, too high, the ironwork too open, the façade is crumbling. Don’t go out, they say to the twins, who peer with thin white faces out through the window that is never cleaned, across the street where the reproachful windows glitter, the ones that saw. Don’t go out, like your brother did, climbed the fancy ironwork and fell. Don’t go out. But they leave the window open, as if to tempt them, the little girls who are left, the ones they would have offered in his place
dreaming is drifting
on the dark waves
of sleep

MH17 Domoren en dromers, mixed media on canvas, 100 x 70 cm, 2020 v

November Ekphrastic Challenge: Day 16

For today’s challenge I have used both paintings proposed by Paul Brookes, Terry Chipp’s Katrina in the monastery and Marcel Herms’ Devils in disguise.

TC16 Katrina in the monastery

Our Ladies of Assumption

People aren’t always who they say they are,
places aren’t always what they seem,
a smile does not always mean pleasure,
and sanctuary is not where we think to look.

Colour is not an indication of integrity,
and wealth means nothing more than privilege.
Sin is a figment of the imagination,
but misery is real, hunger hurts.

She sits in the cloistered quiet,
dressed in virginal white,
the collection box bursting with her offering.
In the street, children scratch for worms.

In the street, children scrabble, and
the painted prostitute dabs her eyes,
hands them her hard-won cash.

Small hands flutter in thanks like birds,
the world turns,
and the box, shaken,
rolls the same dice.

MH16 Devils in disguise, mixed media on book cover, 20,5 x 15 cm, 2020