After the fires had stopped, art started
to paint itself again; a lick of flame
hitting the cooling lines of martyrs
putting their clothes back on, virgins
resettling their smiles. Faces started
to stare again from hollowed corners,
smooth bone like falling stone. A mass
of shadow stretched out along the forest,
turning the leaves to their true colours,
as the rays of the sun unshaped the day.
Small parts of the original were seen:
the curves of a face in profile, half an arm
hanging like half a story from
your grandmother’s sleeve.
1 In 1866, Ottoman forces controlling Crete herded 900 women and children into the beautiful Arkadi monastery, where they used gunpowder to blow themselves up rather than be killed by their enemies. Nowadays the monastery and its remaining Christian Orthodox artworks have been partially restored.
In Praise of Light Pollution
Shot sequins falling down like dandelions,
whispers coming up in light pollution
and us standing on the ground and watching
bonfires float before us, upside-down.
Shiva pushed through the colour of the earth
and now we watch as earth fills air. The first
chords drift up smiling in purple and red,
ready to work over the muscle of the sky,
that spine that holds up light; like a surgeon,
hand held up like a baton, about to touch
the sensitive geometry of bone. Visible air
settles, like feathers, on buildings, burning
their edges. It’s fortunate that we have gods
of metal, shaped in endless, boring bombs.
I touch your hand through the dangerous smoke,
the world looks through windows at the show.
First, the round cheek of the taut stomach,
navel an ear or blowhole, listening out
for signals from the curved inverted globe.
Then the bones, once out, moulding their sphere.
Darkened eyelashes frame new eyes; the layer
of thin dried yoghurt flakes away, dark hair
falls from his cheeks in the slow coarse move
from prehistory to now, a gill-less creature.
Or, as things would go for me: the face
smoothing itself out as I recline,
Madonna of the incidental, swathed
in student scarves. I’d listen to lost notes,
the silent progress of the gut-shot features
swimming back to their original element.
They found it thrown like a loose tooth
into the abandoned corners of a low-down cave.
The hole like a woeful bullet in the brow
suggested monsters, something halved
and mutilated, as the bones
far away in the elephant graveyard rattled,
shaking Africa and India, then falling
still with a last hiss. They thought the skull
seemed drier than an animal’s, and piled the layers
on in their imaginations, the water round the scalp,
the membrane jelly, the moisture of the skin
with men’s blood running through it; then the hair.
The archaeologist who’d always liked
to nurse a man’s head in her arms,
lifted it up carefully when it was ready,
afraid of the fragile collapsing of the myth,
the Cyclops filtering down through history
into an elephant growing smaller and smaller
like Kumbhakarna in the Ramayana,
a giant cut down bit by bit.
Colette Sensier is a literature student and practising poet. She has won the Foyles, Peterloo, and Tower young writers' competitions and been featured in magazines including Rialto and the South, and online at poemegranate.me.uk, nthposition.com, and now cadaverine! She lives in Cambridge where she drinks tea, eats pesto, and reads a lot of books.