Two Poems

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By Kenneth Francis (August 2018)


Mystery and Melancholy of a Street, Giorgio de Chirico, 1914

 

Screaming Popes and Sacred Monsters

Out on the empty piazza, a young girl

With wispy hair trailing behind her in the wind

Runs while pushing a hoop with a little stick

Down Melancholy Street at midnight; her long

Skinny shadow jogging behind her into the

Square past an open wagon door where

Evil men with nets might hide; or a stick

Insect roped in bondage dangling

At the end of string tied to crossed fingers

On a faded-green fence; like a circus lady’s

Long legs tensely walking on the tightrope

Or a burning giraffe standing still in the twilight

Hour under a deep aqua sky; or a darkly lit

House in an empire of light where bowler-hat

Men float in the clouds and locomotives roll

Out of fireplaces; or a place where Celebes

Elephants with sticky bottom Grease pray

For wounded Papa and the Nervous

Grandmamas of Sumatra. These oils

On canvas can melt time in the deserts of

Salvador’s sinister skull; unlike a courtyard

Where a Greek stone head is rubber-gloved

To the disgust of Disquieting Muses dressed

Like papal urinals drawing long shadows on

Ancient red towers near a hill where a statue

Like Pegasus stands on a plinth

While way out West in the wet streets of Soho,

Screaming popes hang in dark studios where

Sacred monsters once hung out in sleazy bars.

What is it about these misfits whose illogical

Brushstrokes amuse us? Were they unwitting

Agitprop provocateurs for the Masters of the

Universe? Their dark souls never longed for

The Host but instead remained atoms lost in the

Shadows of the underworld; or are their images

Nothing more than the emperor’s new tosh?

Picasso has a lot to answer to—or was it Bosch?

 
Isambard Kingdom Brunel

He wears an eight-inch stovepipe hat

Upon his head; a five-feet-one-inch giant

Resembling a mini-Bill Sykes,

His name is Isambard Kingdom Brunel

See the monster chains hanging behind him

With links the size of Atlas’ globe

Ready to launch the SS Great Eastern

Into the cruel sea; but it’s not all ocean:

‘Go up to the mountain’, he commanded

And they quarried huge rocks and timber

To lay the foundations for the Great

Western dream of travel and adventure

Burrowing for miles under Britannia’s rivers,

mountains and valleys, to a place where

Thomas the Tank Engine meets Ben Hur:

Suspension bridges ushering trains on

Rail-lines that stood the test of time

Tracks that would never bring a train to

Halt at the drop of autumn leaves or an

Average build-up of winter snow

If he’s not in Heaven, is he building

Railroads out of Hell? Whatever the case:

Raise a glass to Isambard Kingdom Brunel!



 

__________________________________

Kenneth Francis is a Contributing Editor at New English Review. For the past 20 years, he has worked as an editor in various publications, as well as a university lecturer in journalism. He also holds an MA in Theology and is the author of The Little Book of God, Mind, Cosmos and Truth (St Pauls Publishing).

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast

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