Ekphrasis in an Essex Sculpture Garden. Poetry by Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

Ekphrasis in an Essex Sculpture Garden
 – an allegory of choosing and being chosen

1 – The Artefact
I don’t suppose a poet will pick me,
the only sculpture in this place that’s broken.
Even apples in the nearby trees 
redden with embarrassment
when anybody walks towards me
in this unobtrusive corner 
where they dumped me when corrosion
took away my crowning ring. Without it,
I might look as if I had some function –
Water pump?  Theodolite?  
A long-forgotten ice-house periscope?
But my mismatch with the catalogue
reveals I’m neither use nor ornament.

2- The Artist
As an extrovert I’ve always been a lover 
of smooth finishes – say chrome or stainless steel.
I like to see myself transformed expansively –
prefer concave reflections over cramped convex.
But for a change this once I turned to using paint –
high gloss of course, light grey on chunky cylinders
constructed out of hollowed and truncated spheres
whose thickness dwindled to the logical conclusion
of a narrow halo or a balanced hoop.
Too thin, too flimsy someone should have told me –
told me to allow a weld pool big enough
to make a joint that wasn’t liable to fracture
when contracting in a sudden winter frost.

3 – The Poet
I skipped the tutor’s talk about ekphrasis:
went and found an object I was drawn to,
vaguely like some aid to navigation.
Where I come from, proper artefacts
will do a job of work to earn their keep
(and then it’s fine them looking nice as well).
I didn’t know about the broken bit 
at first – and when I did, well, it was fun 
to speculate how it had got snapped off.
But here’s the thing: complete, it wouldn’t rate
a second glance. That missing part – a moon
eclipsed by nothing – would’ve let it down, 
since that could have no earthly use at all.

About the contributor

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is a semi-retired mathematician who is now poetry editor of the on-line magazine London Grip. He has published four collections and five chapbooks, the latest of which are, respectively, "Poems in the Case" (Shoestring 2018) - which combines poetry with a murder mystery - and "The Man Who Wasn't Ever Here" (Wayleave 2017) - which speculates about the life of his Irish grandfather. With Nancy Mattson he organises the Poetry in the Crypt reading series in North London.

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