Poetry

Obstruction #5: Fear

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The pictures we submitted showed many aspects of London. Some told how London is quite a green city. In certain places, it almost seems to be in the country: one of the pictures, instead, showed a fox in the middle of the street. Another pic showed people sitting all in the same carriage while another one was almost empty.Nothing really stands still, everything is moving, people are not engaging between each other but are all packed together constantly. Density is a myth: in London, everyone makes their best to stay apart. One of the pictures showed Hampstead Heath. This park is almost an oasis in the middle of the claustrophobic city. The pics we take everyday contain enough details to help us write about the city. In this stack of pictures, we saw places packed with people and places where almost no one was around, subterranean places and some of the highest spots. Simultaneity is one of the big parts of the city. Wilderness is also this: the contradictions of the big city.

As we were observing the pictures, we were introduced to the term ekphrasis. I remembered it because I attended the grammar school in Italy, where we learnt ancient Latin and Greek. Ekphrasis is the name, while ekphrastic is the adjective. It’s the tradition of writing a piece where you respond to another art form, a connection with an object. In the article Ekphrasis: Poetry Conronting Art, this phenomenon is described as addressing the image, making it speak, speaking of it interpretively, meditating upon the moment of viewing it, and so forth. In Notes on Ekphrasis by Alfred Corn, it is represented as it could designate a passage providing a short speech attributed to a mute work of visual art. In recent decades, the use of the term has been limited, first, to visual description and then even more specifically to the description of a real or imagined work of visual art.

The word means description in Greek, and one of the most ancient examples is the introduction and description of Achilles’ Shield, that takes the reader to other places and stories. Even if the depicted objects never existed, this technique was used both for stimulate the reader’s imagination and to show the skills of the writer. I liked how Ron said that the writer’s block is not an option anymore. Everything can inspire a poem, every object, even the lurid toilets of a public loo. Welcome to ekphrasis, he said.

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So this was interesting because it had to do with our Obstruction #5. First of all, Ron wanted us to list our monsters. What scares us, what terrorizes us. This is mine:

  • Jeffrey Dahmer
  • Ted Bundy
  • Silvio Berlusconi
  • Donald Trump
  • Not being able to see the sea under me when I swim
  • Height
  • Terrorists
  • Sharks, poisonous animals
  • Monster of Florence

Then Ron wanted us to choose three that we considered the worst. I chose this:

  • Terrorists
  • Height
  • Ted Bundy

So, these are the obstructions:

  1. Tell the story of an encounter with the monstruous, the monstruosity, real or imagined, microscopic or grand. The speaker make contact with the terrifying, the disturbing, the unsettling.
  2. Use the third person.
  3. A moment is revised, polished, changed.
  4. The lyrics of a song are heard or incorporated in the poem.
  5. Stop to incorporate the picture Untitled by Amaal Said. As in ekphrasis, this picture must inspire a response in the poem. Find a place for beauty. Do the flowers contrast or highlight your point?

 

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This is my attempt at Obstruction #5.

 

She Liked the Bad Guy [later changed into Bundy]

 

So listen. She’s always liked the bad guy.

She’s always wanted to say

“My man is a bad motherfucker”

like that Lily Allen’s song, come on, you’ve heard it before.

 

If you have to guess, you’d say, maybe

A Noel Gallagher kind of bad guy,

Always throwing shade at every band

Who isn’t Oasis.

 

Or you could say a Loki kind of villain,

intriguing, witty and fascinating.

But she says that she likes

the bad guy in general.

 

If you asked her,

she would answer,

“none of the above”

but yes, she could imagine him:

 

a cigarette dangling

from his lips,

a slight but canny smirk

over crooked teeth.

 

She’s got long hair,

pitch black.

He would want her back.

As he’d always had.

 

And she would feel flattered

She is kind and trustworthy,

She is good-looking too. Pitch black hair.

That’s why he would like her.

 

He would pretend to be British

(She can fall easily

for a good Northern accent),

and he would ask her

 

would you mind helping me

fix something on the roof

of my car?

Of course she could.

 

It would be an old, ordinary car.

He would have a broken arm,

shoddily plastered.

She would say yes.

 

She would like this bad guy.

She would like his good manners,

she’d probably spotted something in his eyes

a smart glimpse, or whatever it was

 

and since she thinks she knew men

she would take that glimpse as a sign,

made out of bright neon lighs,

screaming he was good in bed.

 

She thinks she knows men,

but she wouldn’t really see.

Because of course she couldn’t know

that the car passenger’s door

 

that she’d so like to open

(because she likes this bad guy)

had been wildly scratched with broken nails

and has no interior handle at all.

 

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