Tag Archive: Beauty


A walk in Kings Park

 

Silent decay in silvers –
slivers of bark still
depend from shattered limbs
memories of the living tree.

Beneath, the thirsty earth
receives each dropping gift.
Each bark-morsel a benison;
already new life sprouts.

 

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Venus on a bus

Venus on a bus.
A Botticelli
rising from
the sea of faces.

Venus on a bus.
Spun-gold hair
falls in waves
around her shoulders.

Venus on a bus.
Tired commuters,
strap-hanging, are
mute in veneration.

Venus on a bus.
Teenagers adore her
from a distance,
ungainly cupids.

Venus on a bus.
Eager for her smile,
one stands and
offers her his seat.

Venus on a bus.
Ignoring his offered
cockleshell, she
rings the bell.

Venus on a bus.
She alights; her
worshippers sigh:
reality returns.

 

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Who knows where poetry comes from?  In this case I can date the germinal idea pretty exactly: late May, 1982.  I was in Italy – Florence, to be precise – and I had just stumbled from the Uffizi Gallery, stunned.

I’ve known Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ all my life, and even if you think you don’t know it, you do:

A definition of depilated Beauty: The Birth of...

The Birth of Venus. Sandro Botticelli. (1486)
Source: Wikipedia

When I say I’ve known it all my life I mean I don’t know exactly when I first saw a print of it, but I doubt that I was more than 3.  Dad had many fine art books and I was allowed to “read” them, with suitable guidance as to turning pages carefully and not scribbling in them.

And that’s how I “knew” the painting: as a large colour print in a folio-sized art book.  Beautiful.  But that was the only way I knew it: a print around 180mm X 280mm (7″ X  11″ or thereabouts).

The Uffizi changed that.  I had no idea of the glory, the detail, the delicacy or the sheer scale of the work.

It’s a big painting: 172.5 cm × 278.5 cm (67.9 in × 109.6 in).  When I walked into the chamber it struck me dumb.  I don’t know if this is still the case but in 1982 you could stand within a metre or so of the painting.  Nothing between you and Botticelli’s genius except a velvet rope on brass stanchions, with a bored armed guard to one side.

I literally spent an hour in front of that one painting, until eventually my brother dragged me away.  We toured the rest of the gallery, but The Birth of Venus is all that really stays with me – not so much the actual image since I have almost no capacity for visual memory, but the impact it made upon me.

And later, outside the gallery, sitting in a street-side caffé I happened to glance up at a passing bus.  And there she was: Botticelli’s Venus amongst the other passengers.  Just another Florentine girl, stepped from a 15th C. painting and made 20th C. flesh.

That’s where this poem comes from, that unknown girl glimpsed for a moment and then gone.

A Rose in Winter

Our southern winter sun is kind.  Her ray
Beams down on us; and in July the rose
Still blooms and in its scented splendour shows,
We need not Shakespeare’s darling buds of May.
In spring the rose in sweet profusion lifts
Her flowers to the sky.  The sun, yet light,
Before the summer’s glaring, vengeful might,
Warms gently, and the rose bestows her gifts.
The sun of summer sears; but when it goes
Comes autumn, and a flush of flowers bright.
Yet I most love the winter’s gentle light,
When on the bush is one last perfect rose.
+++ My mother is as that one flawless rose:
+++ In winter, still her beauty brightly glows.

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This is one of only two sonnets I have attempted; the other is, frankly, crap.  I’m quite proud of this one; until I tried writing sonnets I had NO IDEA of how hard they are.

I wrote it as a gift to my Mother on the occasion of her 80th birthday.

It’s not in the “traditional” Shakespearian rhyming scheme – it’s a little closer to the Italian rhyming scheme, but not identical.  Nevertheless, it fulfils the technical requirements to be considered a “true” sonnet, for there are a multiplicity of possible rhyming schemes, and the form can be summarised as 3 quatrains with a final couplet, in iambic pentameter (usually, but there are exceptions).

Incidentally, if you are from the Northern Hemisphere and wondering why it mentions winter and July, you should probably know that I live in Australia.  And yes, where I live it really is warm enough that roses will flower for 12 months of the year.