Janette Ayachi: A Medicine of Moments
Diana and Callisto (After Titian, 1556-9)
Come now cheated hearts,
bow to my crescent moon headdress
let’s unveil this foolish nymph-maid
and reveal her love-bruised flesh.
Her belly bulges another heart beat
formed from thunderous seed,
though I hear he tricked her
forced her and masqueraded himself as me.
Still she betrayed me,
lay without me and shamefully imposed,
now Juno will punish her,
into a bear she is to metamorphose.
Hush a higher throne bellows
Jupiter wants his mistress immortalised,
his poor wife always starved of love
and conventionally undermined.
Sisters let Acteon’s arrows rest;
pour me another goblet of wine,
hunt has ceased for today
let’s toast to the unborn adulterine.
Let the waters wash our hands
of this deceitful mess
for I am to remain Diana
the desirable but chaste moon goddess.
I am fashioned without robes
for I have nothing treacherous to hide
I have my dignity, my power
and my willing women at my side.
Then the sky swung a sack of diamonds
glistening from Callisto’s womb,
a labour of lint light matching its glow
to the celestial chandelier moon.
Portrait of Sarah Malcolm (After William Hogarth 1732)
“She was capable of any wickedness” W. Hogarth
Inside the frame, behind her bars, a breeze furls
through the grates, the artist sets up his easel
in the corner. The subject averts her face from
paintbrush, the natural light, her arms crossed
on the table where rosary beads rest before her
like a prop, she imagines herself crushing them
in her fist until they piece the flesh of her thick palm.
Sarah Malcolm was young, once wealthy
but resorted to servitude after bankrupcy,
her fate is Newgate prison, her demise
from honourable heir to robber, launderess
to murderess. Her mistress was found with
a knife embedded in her throat, the maids choked
with a chord, the house emptied of life and riches.
The relax of grip, the stillness, the sound
of her breathing filling the candle-lit chamber.
Later she lit fires to burn the evidence
pawned parts of her loot and stashed a purse
of coins in the tressels of her hair, when the guards
came they found linen and a silver tankard gleaming
in blood, she tried to bribe the turnkey with gold
but two days after this very painting dried
she was taken to Fleet Street on the portable gallows.
On the morning of the executioners applaud
she was hung alongside nine blurry-eyed men
her prison pallor was concealed by rough cheeks
she wore her black gown, white apron, sarsenet hood
wringing her black-gloved hands. She wept bitterly
then fainted as the priest hummed the last prayer.
The bellman sirened the carts approach
her hands tied in front, halter around her neck,
then one sharp slap on the horse’s flanks
the cart and saboteur steed steered ahead.
She jostled so much the scaffolding nearly collapsed
her legs kicked in the air, her veins forked
across her forehead, she swung like a penduluum.
The relax of grip, the stillness, the sound
of the spectator’s breathing filling the cold streets.
A crystalline clarity of the crowds
the back row of calico fur stepped back
on to their carriages, purses and watches
gone as gangs of thieves dipped in to crevices
crows trapeze walked the rope, danced a dirge
then pecked at her hair and sound resounded back
to its familiar reverb.
Time alone with Tulips
My purple tulips are near death
they breathe the pigments of bruise.
An aquarium vase magnifies stalks
to flaunt the curves of their new spring dress,
each coat of soil removed after winter
they style themselves in wardrobes of colour.
A black tulip would suit my mourning
so from my sick bed I dream of the river Spaarne,
but I grow healthy and they grow old
their wrinkles mirrored in the stagnant water.
They shed their petals, a confetti of dead leaves
a Dutch dirge chanted for their terminal striptease.
Tulips that tend to their own wounds
before they bend close to comfort mine
their life span
the only speculation of my time.
I have been lost in film for days
doing perpendicular leaps into different lives
any life but my own
each title a quantum experience
dissolving into the expression of many close-ups
folding myself into the frame
and I am there
I am triggered to feel
how I feel when I am film
when I am screened from the secrets of my world
into just another story
a medicine of moments treating the void
I am the perverted picture viewer
tuned in and turned on
to the aesthetic beauty of visuals
just so I can escape awhile
in the shadow of the auditorium
my eyes now darker than they have ever been.
Janette Ayachi has an MSc from Edinburgh University (2006) and has published in various journals and anthologies, with poetry currently in Orbis, The Lampeter Review, The French Literary Review and New Writing Scotland, then upcoming in The New Writer, The Journal, The Istanbul Review and Pushing Out the Boat. She likes Ani Di Franco, Sylvia Plath, red wine and green olives. She currently lives in Edinburgh, has two wee girls Aria and Lyra and a basic website with further information if interested, where you can hear her read her poem Mothlight in a filmpoem collaborationwith filmmaker Alastair Cook. She works as a part-time gallery attendant at the National Gallery where she paces out syllabic possibilities for her next poems.