The Birthday

(a re-interpretation of the painting by Marc Chagall)

Too many bubbles in the Buck’s Fizz, said the triage nurse.
They were having trouble holding me down,
ankles bandaged to the steel legs

of waiting chairs for seven hours and counting.
Luckily everything was nailed in Emergency.
They threatened me with a heavy

radiation suit of lead. I threatened to sue.
Mark held tightly to my wrists as an extra
precaution (too tightly perhaps).

Urination from a height was Olympic.
I broke free and rose
to the top, beating my head on the ceiling.

I formed a neat hole, a short cut
to Maternity. This was not the birthday I’d expected
but I could still recall the sweetness of his watermelon.




Note 1:- The Russian artist Marc Chagall painted The Birthday in 1915.  The woman in the picture is Bella, his muse, whom he married later in the same year.   The oil painting is now displayed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.









The Fall of Icarus

(after the painting by Marc Chagall)

Perambulating through the sky,
carefree as a rain-less cloud,
the boy forgot everything.

With sun dreams in his heart
and wild angels in his hair,
Icarus flew on the easterly wind.

One by one, his feathers waxed and flared.
Flapping, folding like a fish, he fell
towards the sea of turnip faces.

His wings of fire split the morning,
pirouetting between life and death,
indigo smoke, the ochre of fear.

Upturned, the butcher, the ploughman, the undertaker,
the midwife, the milliner, the teacher, the whore,
the schoolgirl, the donkey, the ducks on the pond.

The boy corkscrewed down, down, down
while the ducks rose up in a feathery shroud.
Their chorus soothed his burning skin.

Their gentle beaks held him close.
Their rainbow wings bore his limbs
homeward, to a cerulean pool.




Note 1:- My poem was inspired by Marc Chagall’s 1975 surrealist painting, The Fall of Icarus.  It’s an example of ekphrastic poetry, that is, a re-interpretation of a piece of visual art.  I have given the myth a more positive ending!  At present the painting is displayed in the Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris.  Marc Chagall was a Russian painter whose dreamlike images often featured flying figures.