0256 What Are Those Kids Up To? Poem by Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

Marton, Lancashire

0256 What Are Those Kids Up To?

Rating: 2.9

It’s in a quiet corner to itself
away from the grandiose creations of the
Italian Renaissance gallery, so
you can stand undisturbed to wonder
just what’s going on?

A small painting: in a peaceful
green and hilly summer countryside,
not a soul in sight except
these three – children? - their faces under
their hoodies seem known to each other
but shadowed, small, not asking to be
known to us; absorbed, maybe learning, and
they’re enacting, in this remote spot,
the Crucifixion

Jesus hanging patiently up there, a bit like
a kid trying it out for himself to see
what it feels like (and there was a case, a kid
a few years back, on Hampstead Heath,
it was hushed up; no accomplices let on) :
Mary’s quietly grieving, no big painterly
gestures there; she’s huddled up, a girl
who’s really learning about emotion as she
acts it out; John, lost in thinking as he
tries to meet in his boy's mind, the
dimension, the immensity.

It would be easier, if this were
a short story by some masterly
South American writer:
three kids who have been totally
unexposed to scriptures, find this
Bible book, read it as, like, science fiction,
decide to act it out. The master
of short stories would have to
work out the denouement:
did the kids, unobserved, pack up
and return to normal life, but
secretly transformed in inner mind?
Or did one die, as on Hampstead Heath,
the others never let on, and yet
never forget? And later, become…?

Or would a well-scripted film,
like 'Whistle down the Wind', make
a memorable, reasonable reality
of this, subtly balancing
fiction and emotion,
that children and their parents
would go to see together, even
buy the video?

It’s such a private scene, this rehearsal
of the event so hard to imagine,
even if you try; as if you were
on a fast Italian train; saw it flash past
your window; not quite believe your eyes; then already
two kilometres on, wonder if you should have
pulled the communication cord with
that elegant Italian instruction
next to it? Or try to tell the guard
in your halting Italian, that you’d seen
the Crucifixion back there…he’s Catholic,
you’re crazy English…yet, it happens..
‘miraculo… miraculo…! ’ the train’s
many kilometres down the line by now;
the kids have maybe had enough to
last them a lifetime.. packed up, gone home..so
some kinda joke, Protestant English
taking the mickey out of
Catholic superstitious visions? Best say nothing,
it’ll work itself out in God’s good time
so to speak

We’re sensible, down to earth people –
A prosaic answer, perhaps? Like,
this is a record of the moment in art
when rumours of the delicate
realism of that strange but skilful, detailed Flemish art
hit the idealist Italian scene, by
secondhand account? ‘Yes,
they paint very carefully, real
young people in a real landscape,
acting out the greatest dramas –
you should try it…’

Or perhaps some quietly, intensely
devout patron might have said,
I'd like a small Crucifixion scene to take
around with me, or have upon the table
in front of me to inspire my poetry;
no need for dramatics, nor for labouring the point;
just paint the scene; take my own children
as the models; that will touch me more...

In the still silent backwater of this public gallery
the Crucifixion plays itself out in paint,
privately; you’re reluctant
to leave it, to seek the tearoom; since,
no answers; only

Charles Chaim Wax 03 February 2006

a fine poem exploring what really cannot be explained only seen with awe

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Michael Shepherd

Marton, Lancashire
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