Upon Viewing Arthur Hacker’s By the Waters of Babylon

It was the same siren
that visited him, 
 
the walls on fire, she
who would sow dancing souls
 
falling like snowflakes
in the mind of the seers of Fatima,
 
he, like them,
sensing the fall of an empire,
 
applied oil to
God’s tabula rasa,
 
the seven deadly sins
stopping, taking a breather
 
watching him dogear 
a page in an epoch,
 
who heard a howl
in the voiceless abyss
 
under the screws 
of time and money.
 
So a poor Hacker
fleshed out the demon,
 
joining lust, and fear,
and danger
 
in the eyes of a woman
in black,
 
whom none can escape,
because she is
 
the night and the air,
always or somewhere,
 
with her retinue 
and their lyres,
 
a motherless brood following
into captivity, with
 
a brother now among them, lounging
by nowhere.

2 comments

  1. Mark,

    I was not familiar with the painting until I read your poem. If I had attempted to interpret the art, I would not have seen the detail that you so accurately depicted. You opened my eyes to the painting before I had ever seen it, but more than that you gave it life and breath with your poetry.

    Thank you!

    Sarah

    Like

  2. Hi Mark,

    I think you expand on this mythical painting with a compelling description of Hacker’s intent, ( maybe possession) and the siren who embodies the temptation and destructive essence of Babylon. I really like the way you vividly emphasize her presence and power –

    So a poor Hacker
    fleshed out the demon,

    joining lust, and fear,
    and danger

    in the eyes of a woman
    in black,

    whom none can escape,
    because she is

    the night and the air,
    always or somewhere,

    with her retinue
    and their lyres,

    The reader feels the sense of her inevitability to be met by the human artist and the human condition, as all mortals are susceptible to the plucked chords of lust, fear and danger along with the other strains of those integral lyres. Also the rhythmic underscoring of language adds to the intensity of this piece and brings the viewer back for a second look and a second reading.

    Much enjoyed this!
    Wendy

    Like

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