Crown and Bough

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Poem: Portrait Gallery

You loiter in a room of windows
birthed from silver in a dark, close cave
stinking of chemicals.  They stare out/in,
those petrified, along with their various habitats;
wrinkles; crinkled work clothes, sleeve cuffs rolled.
Black and white, outlined in lightning.
The particularity of them strains and runs over
like batter in a waffle press.  Incomplete
specimens of beetle-wing detail: a lone, rolling
eyeball, a wiry beard, and a bulging body
emerging from a wave. (Venus from Wilendorf
in her glory?)  You can't help but feel
there's something forgotten, between yourself
and these strangers, brought face to face across a canyon
to commune in this upper room -- a dialogue of looks.
An urge rises, then drops, like a belly
in a swell of sea, to wrangle ghosts
smiling their secrets, to say to them,
where is the rest of you?
Where have you gone?

Inspired by this gallery of Bill Jay's work currently on display at Oriel Colwyn.

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