Two poems

Uffizi Gallery, Florence – Painting P1472


’Tis the tempestuous loveliness of terror;

  For from the serpents gleams a brazen glare

Kindled by that inextricable error

  Which makes a thrilling vapour of the air

Become a [ ] an evershifting mirror


    “On the Medusa of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery”

            Percy Bysshe Shelley



Stone breath

and yet each snake

breathes as human lips

hold the fault of air,

circular breathing

we see eyes fixated

on the top of a clock

as we stare without

making eye contact.


Blaming the victim –

underlying health conditions

judged harshly by the “healthy”

who think they’re immune,

shielded by the screen’s

evershifting mirror:

reptiles, amphibians,

flying mammals

filtered and fixed


in their motion


a night sky shocking

with its lack of stars

but glitz of satellites –


not reflections of sun

we bank on

rising again – fangs,


forked tongues, skin wings,

a nest a misattribution

a critic’s noting


“lack of finish”

for “Il Florentine”


snakes via tail thickness

whether or not


they enfold hemipenes,

embedded in follicles –

hair roots –

a trichology

of flashy

internal luminosity

discharging     venting

against darkness

or the prying light we cast.



The Odds


Between freeway and shopping precinct

Widowmakers throw limbs onto car roofs

And windscreens while a flock of a dozen

White-tailed black cockatoos counterpoint

The squalls coming from the north

Before setting off parallel to a thousand cars

That defy the weather taking all in their stride

Their wake as if only vulnerable when parked,

Indifferent at best to the cockatoos’ odds.

Interval to loss which seems too inevitable.

And all those bonds of shifting air pressure

Torn apart searching for refuge and not

Just augury to dangerous conditions

Already here – sky falling horizontally.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 24, 2021 as "Two poems".

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John Kinsella is a poet, novelist, critic, essayist and editor.

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