(after Gregory Crewdson's Untitled)
Her father's shed had a gambrel roof
that made her think of fairy tales,
Flemish crones in lace hats, embroidered tunics:
narratives like magnets.
It squatted at the bottom of the garden,
locked to little girls, sixty steps from bed.
One night it throbbed with light,
a beam that probed her dreams,
drew her from her sleep toward the door.
It hung open like it never had before,
watched her count the steps across
the damp lawn, grass teasing bare toes.
Magnetised, she strained to hear pixie mirth
or elfin chatter, glimpse a fairy dance.
At thirty steps she saw them: confetti wings
like cabbage whites, glitter in a snow-globe,
or dust-motes twinkling in the yellow light.
She felt them in her tummy too,
and on her tongue, like ginger:
magic that might coax her into fairyland.
But something made her stop:
cold began to creep up through
her foot soles; and in the space between
her steps, a magnet shifted poles.
(after Gregory Crewdson’s The Den)
Refuse to accept
that this is all there is.
The stale wine sofa that isn't
quite big enough for lovers after all,
the crescent of another person's
rear turned toward you,
the knotted rope of spine.
Be glad you kept your top on,
halving your embarrassment,
the chill that the other doesn't
seem to feel, spooning cushions
through the night, a spent white shape.
Refuse to accept that
the moon was just reflected gold.
Turn toward the dawn
like a flower, away from
his plaster cast body, the carpet
strewn with underwear.
Clamp your knees together
to feel what should be there:
womb like a fist, tight enough to trap it.
Morning On Her Tongue
(after Gregory Crewdson's Seated Woman On Bed)
From the corner of her bed
she ignores the grey dawn
bullying the world beyond her window:
she knows it too well,
the cold gears of morning,
their slow shift tightening the flesh
beneath her nightdress.
Today she’s oblivious to bare feet
on laminate, the hessian texture
of morning on her tongue.
She's caught by an image in the mirror:
skin part owned by her history,
sleepy white like Lazarus.
As her grip scrolls the counterpane,
a single question -
she asks the mirror,
and the mirror asks back:
what more do you want from me?
(after Gregory Crewdson's photograph, Sunday Roast)
a door's grim departures:
you can't place
the absent faces now,
retrieve the morning's fragments,
the broken ritual
of family lunch.
by raw meat,
a lounge that's lost
the will to live,
empty table set for six.
Your own plucked heart
is a lunch of blood
plated up for all to see...
This is what it looks like:
dementia in a room,
a mute space clenching.
Paul McDonald taught at the University of Wolverhampton for twenty five years, where he ran the Creative Writing Programme. He took early retirement in 2019 to write full time. He is the author of over twenty books, which cover fiction, poetry, and scholarship. His work has won a number of prizes including the Ottakars/Faber and Faber Poetry Competition, The John Clare Poetry Prize, and the Sentinel Poetry Prize. His academic work includes books on Philip Roth, Allen Ginsberg, Lydia Davis, narratology, and the philosophy of humour. Paul McDonald Amazon Author Page
The Ekphrastic Review
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