Two poems by Jena Woodhouse

A SOLITARY LIFE

 

The angels of fear, sorrow and death
stood by my side since the day I was born.

                                                 Edvard Munch

 

This is the house that Munch bought.
Its windows face the Oslo fjord,
whose waters quiver with midsummer’s
otherworldly midnight light.

As you see, a single bed – the linen
scrupulously white, betokening the house-
keeper’s sense of rectitude and pride.

This is the bed in which Munch died,
conscious, as he’d prophesied –
illuminer of inner life, truth-seeker
and anchorite.

Shadow of a bird on snow –
a raven: childhood tales of Poe.

.

.

 

 

‘THE GIRLS ON THE BRIDGE’

 

        From my rotting body
        flowers shall grow
        and I am in them
        and that is eternity.

                 Edvard Munch     

 

The midnight sun is nudging the horizon.
Three young women stand together,
gazing down into the water’s
wavering reflection of that moon-like orb,
the Nordic sun, and also a dark, brooding
mass, inchoate on the farther shore.

All is still: no sound of birds,
no breeze disturb the gravitas.
The girls have paused in the hiatus
spanning disparate centuries –
the one in red flanked by her friends
or sisters, wearing white and green,
evoking vernal aureoles
of new-leafed apple trees. 

Yesterday is virginal in white:
baptism and first Communion; bride.
Today is the embodiment of passionate
desire for life, arrayed in red – a poppy,
an anemone; the heart, the blood,
the troth of lovers, marriage bed,
the birthing of a child;
the crimson haemorrhage from ailing lungs –
first the mother who succumbed;
then the sister who died young,
her silent, stricken siblings at her side.
Tomorrow, yet to be inscribed,
is like midsummer’s evening skies –
celestial cerulean, forget-me-not.

All three girls upon the bridge
gaze down upon the water’s face
as if to scry what might await them
on the other side.

.

 

Note: After the painting, ‘The Girls on the Bridge’ (1901) by Edvard Munch https://www.nasjonalmuseet.no/en/collection/object/NG.M.00844

About the contributor

Jena Woodhouse
Jena Woodhouse is the author/translator/co-compiler of publications, most recently The Book of Lost Addresses: A retrospective (Picaro Poets 2020). Her poems have been shortlisted three times for the Montreal International Poetry Prize (2013, 2015, 2020). Her ten years in Greece continue to be a source of revelation and inspiration.

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