Overheard at the Tate

Four paintings of a clown

Here’s Pierrot and some dreamy-eyed boaters –
they must be us, I’m sure you’ll agree –
pretending to let something escape:
metaphor-stuff trickling through their fingers
dangled over the side of a world they think
will float in sepia tints forever, I reckon.

Look at Pierrot staring, haunting the bottom-right;
this moon-mad clown was happy once to drift,
trusting in still-water centuries and frolics
that soothed his silly visions of hell, while
his flour-white mask concealed his horror
of the cracks he saw in the future’s crust.

Now Pierrot’s peeping into a house,
seeing children sprawling with kitten-eyes;
televisions showing roaring rockets with leaping
astronauts confirming multitudes in their new religion –
wasted on this cat – what an obvious symbol –
pyramid-slow, building his bunker of sleep.

See over here, between the willows, so easy to miss:
Pierrot’s hit the rapids and tumbles in the gale;
his smock’s turned shroud; his pallid sleeves
are fooling in a flash – the apocalyptic gestures
of despair no-one heeds – and, of course,
the bloodless face, the pointed nose of a moribund.

Does it remind you of a poem by Verlaine? Sorry?
Oh, you’ve had enough? Let’s move on to the next room.


© Nemo 2023
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the bloodless face, the pointed nose of a moribund. – Killer lines and so many portraits and self-portraits as Pierrot flow onward: Rouault, Henrion through to Beaton. Great obervational piece. Bravo.

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