* * *
an interpretation of Child and Large Bird, Emil Nolde (Germany) 1912
with words from Finnegan’s Wake, James Joyce
Now old, she’s tried everything: Nars’ Orgasm
blush from Sephora, golden lamé slippers
on sale, $10.95 at Nordstrom Rack,
the latest punk hair dye—Tish & Snooky’s
Manic Panic Cotton Candy—
cut in a tidy bob with bangs for fun.
You look like a parrot, her husband snips.
That’s when the first tail feathers sprout
behind her, as black as that
LBD she’d bought to pique his interest.
Then, the prick of wings
brings a little smile to her lips. Divorce
would be too easy after thirty years.
War-painted, her legs tattooed with Ogham,
she’s the “Washer at the Ford” become banshee:
Beside the rivering waters of,
the hitheringandthithering waters of. Night.
* * *
after Laura Theis
—an interpretation of the costume sketch for Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks,
Viktor Hartmann (Russia) 1871
The egg is maybe.
and yet it will
breathe blue sky and spring rain
through its shell
because both are present.
It can tell how
every day is one day closer
Not like the burst
of fire burning kindling
in great conflagration,
or the door
slam-swung open against a wall
in stiff wind.
Not as quickly
as a mother’s heart opens
at her child’s first cry.
No, the egg cracks
first a hole, then a chip, then a split
and then light saturates.
Bald of flight feathers,
a chick with monstrous eyes
and lizard-scale legs
emerges just as you
have seen pea seedlings
break through the crust of Earth.
* * *
The Twittering Machine
—Paul Klee (Switzerland, b. Germany) 1922
A fledgling-girl abandons rubber boots at a muddy tadpole pond.
Without asking for permission,
Spring begs tulip mouths
to bugle reveille at dawn.
As finch-woman, she diapers her parchment infant with peach magnolia leaves.
Summer heeds her footing
in the trilling grasses full of seedlips
and tiny crawling things.
As rose-woman, she straddles a carousel horse circling Calliope’s steam whistle.
In the curlicue of migration
a robin’s lost to late Autumn winds
and no orchestra can bring her home.
As crone-woman, she clears the steam cloaking the window above her boiling stewpot.
A raven, half-erased, becomes
smudges in the clouds—surrounds
Winter who swallows icicle harpoons.
As ghost-woman, she spills indelible ink onto her wrinkled fingertip and paints.
She’ll watercolor constellations’ songs,
crank the handle of Earth’s orbit
the way an organ grinder plays his pipes.
* * *
D. Walsh Gilbert is the author of Ransom (Grayson Books, 2017). Most recently, her work has appeared in Montana Mouthful, The Ekphrastic Review, and Waking Up to the Earth: Connecticut Poets in a Time of Global Climate Crisis, among others. She loves to write ekphrastic poetry, especially interpretations of colorful, impressionistic, and surreal works which allow her to escape.