Four Poems

Writer and poet Stephanie Conn has written four new pieces in response to work by artists Ebrahim Ehrari and Barbara Freeman

How to Spear a Fish

The window frames a story of storm;
black cumulonimbus, churning waves
and cracking light; a night for indoors.

The room’s lines are distinct. In my dreams
there’s always been a lack of edge. I am
awake & watching the world turn outside in.

Moonlight catches the ocean’s pleats,
illuminates her hidden veins beneath gilt-
edged clouds, gathering in a copper frame.

I hear thunder close enough to set off
a pounding in my chest. I do not see
the lightning streak across the sky

but feel it pierce my silver skin, lift me
clean of the tide, exposing my underside
in the crackling-static air. I am singular;

propelled from the shifting rainbow shoal
where each tilt & turn seems laid down
in my very bones, etched in fin and tail.

I gasp once; fail to feel the sea trickle
through my gills. I long to breathe
the strangeness, fill phantom lungs,

no longer coffined by an endless swell;
thrust into a new-fangled, half-lit scene,
staring, with unblinking eyes, at the stars.

Written in response to ‘Untitled – Speared fish’ by Ebrahim Ehrari

A Tonal Shift in Edge

This is not a watercolour moment
but one that emerged from acid
smeared on copperplate, late at night,
in the dank corner of a locked room.

When the door opens onto a raging sea,
without the draw of shingle or sand,
do not pull back from the framed space
or let doubt bleed into the shaped lines.

Close your eyes. Forget all you’ve been told
about looking and leaping. Taste the ocean
on your lips, and if you desire a soundscape,
pucker to a whistle in the biting wind.

Become a bird. Let your elongated wings
find the air’s current, lift you high above
wood and walls, crashing waves; carry you
from landlocked salt lakes to the open sea.

Written in response to ‘A Cold Day’ by Ebrahim Ehrari

Cross-Section with Contrast

They are picturing the inside of my body;
abdominal cavity, blood vessels, bones.
Iodine pulses through my veins, flushes warm
and wet between my legs. I’ve been forewarned;
assured I will not piss myself. A man with kind eyes
squeezes my hand, twice, then steps behind a screen.
I wonder if it’s bullet proof. I’m on my back, stripped
of my wedding ring, the necklace from my daughters;
they hold no traction here, in this room of machines
that ignore the heart in favour of the stiller organs.

Written in response to 'Fragment - organ' by Barbara Freeman 

Component Part

I try to lift my head when he enters the designated,
curtained square but can’t. He bolsters me up on
regulation pillows, doesn’t smile, keeps commands
simple. Follow this pen with your eyes, and I can.

Squeeze my hand, he says. The right one fails.
Try harder, give everything you’ve got.
I fail. Tears rise. My throat dries up.
Push hard against my palm.

I will remembered strength but fail over and over,
and when he knocks each knee, in turn, with a hammer,
the right refuses to budge. The flickering strip light is hurting
my eyes and panic bubbles up from my stomach’s pit like bile.

Written in response to ‘Fragment – hand’ by Barbara Freeman 

  • Fragment – organ’ by Barbara Freeman
  • A Cold Day’ by Ebrahim Ehrari
  • Fragment – hand’ by Barbara Freeman
  • ‘Untitled – Speared fish’ by Ebrahim Ehrari