Janette Ayachi: A Medicine of Moments

Janette Ayachi


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.



Film Physics


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

distorting reality

            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.


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