Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pictures of a Failed Exhibition

Pictures Of A Failed Exhibition

From the days of my religion
when men were gods
and trees were prophets
painted tall and straight
till the  witches'-broom showed,
I took nothing in the end
but the relic in the bone box
framed by black velvet,
lid so carefully carved
with all my fables.

I set it on a scarlet altar
with seven priests and seven 
blessings, where canvas cherubim 
genuflected with a smirk.
In times of great need, I took it out.
I overlooked its sour smell,
its shriveled  form, and
fervently adored it as I
prayed its intercession
in my damnation.

But each year it just
grew blacker, crackled, smaller,
till opening the casket one day
I saw only a brimstone dust.
Then the incubus came
to please and torment me,
the spoiled trees
were felled, the priests
unfrocked and the cherubim fled,
never having truly felt at home

All that was left
hanging in the chiaroscuro
at the alter was a memory-shadow
shape of a severed thing decayed
pointing out the way
to dissolution. From these pictures
I learned two things:
that evil is good's bad dream;
that evil is insane
for it cannot dream at all.

~June 2015

posted for     real toads

Challenge: Fireblossom Friday
The perpetual framer of original challenges, Fireblossom (Shay's Word Garden) asks us to write a poem on any subject, her sole stricture being that the title begin with the words 'Pictures of..." 

Optional Psychedelic Garage Band Accompaniment

Process note: "...witch's broom or witches' broom is a disease or deformity in a woody plant, typically a tree, where the natural structure of the plant is changed. A dense mass of shoots grows from a single point, with the resulting structure resembling a broom or a bird's nest..."~wikipedia

Iamges: The Relic, 18923, by Joaquin Sorolla
Public domain via
Witch's-broom on Birch, via wikimedia commons
Shared under a Creative Commons license 


  1. A super original poem and conceit, Joy. I am not sure I fully agree with your lessons--in that I can imagine evil dreaming of world domination (at least so it does in the movies)--and you know I am joking here as that is rather a superficial kind of dreaming--but you make an extremely compelling case and one does not doubt the authority of your words as framed by your poem. What I especially like--and what you always do so well--is follow through on the original conceit in a very physical and naturalistic manner, so that the trope has a true geometry and a biological rooting--the metaphor actually does what the real life thing would do, rot, dissipate--turn to dust--you handle this so deftly, that it makes the image extremely powerful and compelling. That's a great gift. must run. k.

  2. Whoa! I don't know where to start. Loved the last verse! Smirking cherubim unhappy with their location leaves such a picture in my head. Great piece, nice take on the picture prompt!

  3. For a lack of better words...Wow, wow, wow!

  4. Relics are a gruesome business when you think about it, as you obviously have. The smirking cherubim were an excellent touch, and the repeated references to rot and dissolution. The finger--or whatever it was--finally decays to dust, pointing the way to your bang-up ending in those final four lines. Hope may be hard to hang onto, but its absence is even worse.

  5. ps--"Pictures Of Matchstick Men" is by Status Quo (I see by your video), but I am always crossing it up in my mind with Thunderclap Newman's "Something In The Air." Why? Who knows, but no matter, I like them both.

    1. All those early psychedelia songs sort of bleed together, I find. i couldn't remember who it was by till I scrounged it off you tube, but it was the first thing I thought of when I read your challenge.

  6. I learned two things:
    that evil is good's bad dream;
    that evil is insane
    for it cannot dream at all.

    And so in the end.. it all comes done to good vs. evil.. felt the last line to be an excellent close..!

    Lots of love,

  7. WOW! This poem is so brilliant, it made my hair stand on end. From the trees that were prophets to the decaying end, where "evil is good's bad dream" and is insane because "it cannot dream at all", this is one of your best. And since you always write brilliantly that is some very fine writing. This was a revelation to read.

  8. I just hope that your closing lines are true.. cause if evil could conjure up dreams even our sanctuaries would be filled with brimstone not perfume.. what a poem to read and re-read.

  9. This was a real treat to read. I liked this perspective, which I never considered before.

  10. I applaud your title, which invites a close reading 'for meaning'. Your exploration of this idea that we create, preserve and revere our own relics is fascinating. Excellent piece!

  11. Fantastic close. Eerie and fantastic.
    When men were gods (that is still today right)
    I fear what the tree prophets think of all this.

    It is interesting thought the relics we carry forward,
    boxed for our time of need - old dead things ever still
    pointing the way.

    Nice to see the incubus make another appearance
    as well. I think eveil can not dream, because evil
    can not see beyond itself - this is how I roconcile your

  12. Your conclusion is brilliant

  13. Love the way this poem builds from a very powerful opening stanza. Great images: trees were prophets ~ brimstone dust ~ memory-shadow shape. Wonderful closing line

  14. ~~ the tragedy in SC makes this line 'evil is insane for it cannot dream at all' even more chilling.

  15. "Evil is Good's bad dream"---fascinated by this line...have read it multiple times and love it.

  16. Love the title...There seems to be an odd fascination with remains as you have so profoundly brought to life. The ending gave me chills.

  17. Spellbound through the entire read - but those powerful ending lines sent a chill right through me. And I couldn't help but think of the SC terror as well.

  18. I don't know enough of your backstory, but you describe in frightening truth the process of losing one's religion. Was so for me--a slow recede followed by a terrible awakening to life without gods. Without them -- their dream -- bad is simply insane, attributable only to the horrible isolation an independent, godless mind must live in. Perfect that you chose a rotting relic for the metaphor of that slow dessication of faith. Loved also how those tall trees belied the edge o' the witches' broom. Godless hosannahs.

    1. My backstory doesn't include much real religion, not like a preacher's son, anyway. Like a lot of my generation, my religion as used here was Love. I had a lot of faith in it once, though. Thanks, B. for your feedback--always appreciated.

  19. like you, I turned off the news/noise, the bleating insincerity, the hollow eyes. this 6th great extinction, evidently human-based, and still the clicking bones of bipedal primates merit more reverence than the chuff of a tiger, trumpeting trunked elephant, or the now final echoes of some carrier pigeon. to me, evil is the destruction of diversity, it's the relentless march of conformity and orthodoxy, it's the dream of everything the same - which might be the same as not dreaming at all. ~

  20. god, i haven't heard that song in decades! straight out of my heyday!

    an amazing write, Joy! the ending just blew me away. love this!


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats