Friday, November 06, 2009


I'm going to cheat a bit on this post something every day challenge. This is a poem written over two decades ago, inspired by a movie. I will be most impressed if you can guess which film.


The window frames her against a peaceful landscape,

then a flutter and her skirt trails down the stairs.

She walks through the city streets

past squawking birds, carts of fruit,

vegetables and herbs, through crowds

and noise and dirt into your studio.

She sits as he asks her to sit.

She is what he wants her to be –

Magdalen with her bottle of oil.

The artist says: “My life has been

one long orgiastic dismemberment.

I grind myself into the pigment. I leave

my fingerprints in the paint,

every moment of self-loss

countered with brutal control.

It’s perverted, this transubstantiation.

How can you compare flesh and blood

with oil and pigment? All art is against

lived experience.

Magdalen is dead, and her savior

died in stylized brutality

centuries ago if it happened at all.

My memories are a series of paintings,

every gesture balanced against another,

every dark with its seed of light.”

While he counts her fee,

she yawns and stretches after such long immobility.

Outside she pauses in the doorway,

hair blown against the peeling frame,

the steps into the street where

her skirt stirs little clouds of dust.


  1. Great poem but, sorry, have no clue as to the movie that inspired it. You will let us know, won't you?

  2. Thanks folks. The movie was Caravaggio by Derek Jarman.

  3. Magnificent. (Caravaggio as in Baroque artist and tenebrism? I suppose there's only one...)