Captured, by her eyes of steel

It would be wrong to call them cold

They’re only hardened against a world

Which punishes those who feel


Her passion, dark as night

Hidden beneath false layers

A guarded guise, heart opening

Only to those with a certain sight


Ruptured, your soul is caught

Splintering beneath her fearsome gaze

Those grey chips of ice –

Questioning what of her is sought?


Her tears, they’re gleaming

Bright in the surrounding storm

This whirlwind of wilderness

Too oft denied understanding


Fractured, your body cracks

Weary as submerged remnants

Of a painful past rear up

Revealing the love she lacks


She smiles, the first you see

Eyes sparkle as her burden shifts

Your shoulders swiftly stealing that

Which prevents her being free


One word, one whisper

A feeling sparked

A burning hiss

Bitter anger, breaking fear

Harsh intruder takes over


Ripples spread, waves rise

Flooding fast

As an incoming tide

Painful regret, ghostly echo

Lonely call of your demise


Heart trapped, foreign angst

Gentle but firm

As seduction’s trance

Uncanny delight, enchanting pain

Rational mind in disdain


Stranger, you taught me

That some people care

No condition

Or strings attached


You gave me hope

Newly discovered

I could be myself

Without fear


Stranger, you showed me

Some people do dare

To look gently

Beneath the mask


You gave me faith

Absent awhile

That from this facade

I could peer


Stranger, you led me

Out from my dark lair

A newborn soul

Free from the past


You gave me a dream

A purpose unfurled

Revealing to me

Life was dear


You or me

I see you there, lost and alone

Or perhaps not, perhaps

You are fine and this is my mind,

Playing tricks, seeing in your face

A reflection of my pain,

This place of empty hurt


I see you there, and I want

To take your hand, to reassure you

That life will treat you kinder,

But perhaps what I truly want

Is just for you to reach out and

Give me that courage I lack


I want to hold you, pull your

Weary body close, give you

Warmth and radiance and hope;

Or is it me who needs that touch?

A gentleness, to ease my fears,

To sate that lonely longing


Is it you, or is it me?

I wonder, as on my own I sit,

Pining for your face, hoping

I can one day squeeze your hand,

Thoughts racing as I think of a touch

That I know will never be


For you are you, and I am me

On your face, those troubled lines

Are nothing but my bitter shadow,

An unfaithful echo, and

I’ll leave you now so that I may

Not scar your features further


You tried your very best, but

Somehow it was not enough

In those minutes, those hours

When you had your chance to shine,

It falls apart, it comes to pieces

And dreams now hang, on the line.


All that time spent chasing stars,

Eyes set on the future you

Abandoned the present and

Now, battles fought for nothing,

You’re left wondering –

Can you still reach, what you sought?


Fallen, your greatest struggle now

Is not to catch the moon, but

Just to stay sane and hope

That tomorrow’s sun will rise,

Bright and glorious, guiding you

Away from further demise.


Yet perhaps this was meant to be,

A failure designed to show you

The frailty of an outcome, and

Teach those hungry eyes to see

That perhaps it is in other places

You’ll find joy resides.


In this anxious place

This hopeless space

The mind spirals away

Trapped in thought


Bars caging her heart

She’s unable to start

Inner voices pursuing

Until she’s caught


The shadows whirl

Too strong for a girl

To resist the touch

Of her mocking plight


And in silence she sits

Her eyes desperate slits

Pleading for a release

Escape from this night

The Dancer

As dew drops sparkle

On grass so green

And sunlight filters

Through youthful trees


You’ll spot her whirling

An ethereal mist

Her presence splintered into

A thousand golden rays


Music is playing

But it’s not to be heard

A silent song rising

From slender lithe limbs


And her heart lies open

Exposed to those judging

But she has not a care

For what the world thinks


If you wish you can join her

In this joyous trance

Share with her the rhythm

She will teach you its grace


So dance and be free

Let your spirit scatter

Like a thousand spinning leaves

Caught in the wild wind


As the current pulls

And the ripples gather

Don’t resist the soul’s song

Taking over your mind

The Poet

Words, rippling forth,

from unknown edges

of the innermost,

mysterious mind.


Rushing onward, as

they grow in strength,

they whisper and

sigh, tantalisingly.


Murmuring, they seek

attention like

a lover’s demand,

gentle yet compelling.


And stronger still,

they take shape, take

a beautiful form

in this tangible world.


Words, holding her

there, a vessel, a scribe

for dreams unfurling

from heart’s desire.


That voice inside,

a fearsome caress

like a spring breeze,

turning to a tempest.


So she submits,

to her eerie wisdom

and the comforting calm

of a soul released.

Capturing Perfection, Chapter 4

The fourth and final instalment of the short story.

* * *

Never have I worked so hard on a painting. Never. This had to be perfect because Lorenzo was perfect, and to picture him anything but was a travesty and a sin.


I ordered new brushes, tiny ones made from a few threads of delicate horsehair. I needed them tiny, in order to depict every curl upon his head, every shadow of every shade, when the light fell upon his features.


The picture was my obsession. It was a mission to capture perfection. It became the only thing I cared about and the only thing I wanted to do. The thing that kept my heart beating, sustaining me, giving me purpose.


So long as the painting remained unfinished, imperfect, I knew I had to live.


* * *


My husband found me working. I couldn’t conceal it. He knew I was up to something else because I was late with the other piece he’d been commissioned for. The cards; I hadn’t completed them. There were four to go, the Devil, the Tower, the Three of Swords and the Knight of Coins. The deck needed to be finished, for a celebration of Sforza and his wife Bianca Maria Visconti, daughter of the deceased duke.


At first my husband seemed angry. He struck me. He demanded I finish the cards and he asked me who this man was. Of course I didn’t speak the truth, I merely shrugged and said it was all from my imagination. Not one person but a collection of assorted beautiful attributes from different people I’d seen.


My husband was angry I hadn’t painted him.


But then he let me continue. He must have realised it was the most wondrous picture I was ever painting, and his greed had taken hold. Of course he wanted me to finish, because he wanted to sell it for a fortune.


I didn’t even let that bother me. I couldn’t even think of the future. Placing every brushstroke with certain, exact precision was the only thing that mattered. The only thing I could possibly think of, because it consumed every fibre of my being.


Still the beauty of Lorenzo eluded my hands. And I would crumple into bed, body aching from its hunched position over my canvas, tears leaking from my eyes that had spent too long squinting at the tiniest detail.


I could not rush this project. Could take no shortcut, could be satisfied with no flaw. He had no flaws, and the painting could have none either.


* * *


I could not pause, could not give the portrait a rest. It demanded my entire attention. Commanded me to work, and never to stop, until I had achieved a masterpiece.


It even haunted my sleep; for I would paint Lorenzo in my mind, recalling pictures stored in my heart, a gallery of memories from our secret meetings in the starlight of crisp autumn nights.


At first the thought of him would warm me, when the breeze blew cold outside, and stiff joints ached and groaned.


But then the feeling became too hot. An obsessive, fearsome burning propelled me forward, emanating from my heart and scalding my fingers whenever I touched a brush.


I should have stopped. I should have ripped myself away, then and there, whilst I could. Whilst I still had a footing in reality, had Lorenzo’s arms wrapped around me, I should have broken free.


I could have broken free. I could have run away; he would have cared for me and we would have found a way. Yet it was I who trapped myself. In this endless journey, to strive to capture upon the canvas my feelings and what I saw.


This image of beauty, it was more important to me now than any tangible love, any physical connection with him and the real world. I wanted to realise my ambition more than anything else, this was my existence now and it was the painting and the painting alone that mattered.


At first, Lorenzo had been my freedom. My escape. A sanctuary and a sparkling light even though we could only ever meet in darkness.


Yet too soon, the greatest flaw of my being awakened, this accursed fault that try as I might I couldn’t suppress.


I blamed my husband for it, for making my entire existence revolve around my art. Depriving me of anything beyond it, so that I could not appreciate love. Could not even cherish my own memories, because everything was about the paint. My life was the canvas and each stroke upon it was a stain, tarnishing me further, binding me closer. To complete the painting was to secure the curse.


And because Lorenzo had been too perfect, too good for me, he would be the one to suffer when I morphed into this monster.


There was no other way. There could be no other way. In a scary moment, amidst the turmoil, time seemed to freeze and I saw clearly once again. I teetered on the brink of an abyss, on the edge of chaos, realising everything. Knowing my future, understanding my fate, and conscious that I could not avoid it.


* * *


The painting was gone. The painting had been taken. It must have been my husband, for to another’s eyes, it was finished.


But I had failed to complete Lorenzo, to preserve the fabled history of our love.


In a fury, I ripped out my brushes and I grabbed the final four blank cards that needed an image. They would be the last reminder of this world I would have, the last visible tokens. For Lorenzo was gone: and I started to lose my sight.


Perhaps it had been coming all along. A culmination of the long nights, working away by the feeble candle glow.


But though I blamed it on that and on my husband, I knew it was simply my will to see. Nothing could ever compare to such beauty, and now Lorenzo’s beauty was fading into the night whilst my rage swept me up into a fiery vortex. I didn’t have his portrait. I couldn’t see his face. I had nothing to hold on to and my memory was twisted by the tingling rage of betrayal and insanity.


It could have been perfect, with Lorenzo. If I’d nurtured that feeling, truest of true, bringing happiness always and forever.


But life isn’t like that, life isn’t smooth, life stabs at you and cuts you and lets you down time and time again.


Sometimes you manage to hide it, and shut out your troubles. Concealing them beneath a smiling mask, you hide the flaws even from yourself. Ignore them. The cracks, the tiny fissures that with time will only grow into a vicious rupture that splits you apart.


And in those times when you really need strength, when you really need to show courage and hold yourself together just for a minute, that is always when your mind fails you. Giving way to heartache. Pain.


A burning hot bubble of fiery shame and frustration seizes hold inside your chest. Tears burst from the corners of your eyes and scar your cheeks as though they were acid.


You tried. You thought you’d conquered the world. That you were invincible and finally all those complicated pieces of life had just fallen into place. The puzzle solved, problems resolved. Everything just fine, or more than fine – perfect.


But perfection itself is flawed. The mission to capture it reveals your incompetence. The closer you look the more you realise your inadequacy.


There had been no problem, but I’d created one. I’d fabricated a problem within myself. Because he’d been too perfect, and I’d wanted to capture him.


Tears stormed from my eyes and I pressed something to my face to try and muffle my grief. I realised it was a card: The Tower, struck by lightning. Some oil paint that had not quite dried yet smeared upon my face.


I struggled to my feet, but my legs wouldn’t hold me and I tumbled back down to the floor. My arms had swung around in an attempt to stay balanced, but it only served to bring a box of tools crashing along with me.


I gripped a palette knife. I looked towards the window. Glimpsed a figure, a shadow slightly darker than the night outside.


* * *


Before my marriage, I’d been free as an autumn leaf, whipped up by the breeze and roaming wherever the wind took me. My talent flourished, I was happy, I was fertile. At ease with the world, unconstrained by expectation, calm and content to float where fate would take me.


And then, then my spirit froze within a cage of loneliness. I shut out emotion, for it hurt too much, and feeling nothing was better than pain. But when I don’t feel, I can’t paint. Not truly, not in the way I was born. I know I can’t paint because I can’t picture things in my mind. Images are sterile, colours stark and refusing to blend together. I was ceasing to exist, as the emotion that defined me disappeared.


Then my lover, he had warmed me. Nurtured my bleeding soul and melted the icy shackles of bitterness and abandonment. Gave a kiss of life to a barren womb, awakened feeling in a numbed heart and eased those lips once more into a smile, out of their expressionless line.


But the damage was already done. My life had already been defined for me, fixed by those long winter months, alone and afraid. Defined by my brushstrokes, by the blended paints on my palette. I was and could be nothing more.


The eyes that once saw beauty, holding me together and fuelling my soul, are blinded. Furious desire and raging ambition burns my sockets, so I will never see again.


* * *


Lorenzo held the girl’s frail body in his arms. He whispered her name, ever so gently.




She cried up to him, said she couldn’t see, that her vision was fading and plunging her into a world, darker and darker.


He rocked her back and forth, like a child. He told her she was just tired. Her response was a feeble sob of acknowledgement. That she was in fact exhausted with life.


He stayed there, afraid to let go. And when they finally did part, in the mournful predawn light, he took four cards with him. Four cards, soaked with tears and blood.


* * *


She couldn’t describe things for herself. She preferred to show them, actions louder than words and images so much more powerful.


And so I tell her story. I tell it for her as the life seeps out from the cuts she carved into her wrists with the too blunt palette knife.


She told me things, as she lay dying, while I sat helplessly there. Frozen in time. Unable to move, unable to leave her, there was no going back and we both knew it.


Somehow she conjured visions in my mind. I saw her face in intricate ways, new ways. Every fibre of her being sang its unique song, spinning a miraculous web of multi-coloured light before my eyes.


I kept on blinking, wondering what it was.


She said she died so I would be free. She didn’t want to imprison me.


And I’m still struggling to understand.



Can you please just go away

It’s clear I’m in a mood

I don’t want you here right now

Just leave, and let me brood


When storm clouds roll in

You don’t stand there in the rain

As you leave then, for dryer turf

Please go: it’s not your pain


Leave and let me be

Stop staring, judging me

This is my space, let me be free

I want some privacy


Don’t ask me any questions

I don’t want to answer you

Don’t try to solve this puzzle

Of why it is, that I’m blue


And when you go, that’s the time

That this all starts to clear

As the pressure goes, to be her

I’ll relax, let go of fear


So leave and let me be

Away from stares judging me

Give me the space, to be free

And heal in privacy