Karen Dennison

Poet and artist


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Responding to images – more poems by Elly Nobbs and me

Elly Nobbs (author of The Invisible Girl) and I gave each other an image to respond to again (see previous post) and here are the results.

Here’s the image I gave to Elly:

Brussels

I took this photograph in Brussels near the EC headquarters in 2013 and manipulated it in Photoshop

Elly’s response below was also influenced by the novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler and the three sessions of a stage performance course she attended. I love the way the poem bridges different genres and how it tackles this important topic.

Two Characters & a Situation for an Improv Skit

i. Freeze – Upstage Left, Person #1:

The old chimpanzee,
veins & vitals scarred from years
at this pharma research facility, behind bars
that reach to the sky, waits
for 5 p.m. supper, hoping something

unusual might happen; she’s lonely & hungry
(her stomach is rumbling)
& yes, she’s certainly dangerous
we agree…

ii. Enters – Downstage Right, Person #2:

The white-coated human, who contravenes
(just this once) Sect.1(c)-23
of the for-everyone’s-protection lab
protocol – NEVER GO INSIDE UNLESS
SHE’S SEDATED – unlocks

the escape-proof cage door, scoots in (it will only
take a second) to retrieve the tray
from lunch ignoring the long pole with grippers
he should’ve used to safely slide it
through the slot

but slipping on a banana skin, he knocks
shut the door behind him when he stumbles
… the key flies from his hand
arcs through the air to hers…

iii. The Two Characters Interact Inside the Locked Cage:

Note — the two actors
agreed before the skit
that they must
find a way to help
the old chimpanzee

so used
by us

or we’ll not let them
off the stage.

E.E. Nobbs

Here’s the image Elly gave to me:

Skiff of snow

Elly took this photograph early one Sunday morning, December 2015. It shows a part of the Confederation Trail (the old railway line) where it passes through Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

When I saw Elly’s photo Skiff of Snow, I was struck by just how many footprints there were in the snow but how the path was empty of people. It felt like a visual metaphor for the journeys we make through life and their inevitable endings.

Skiff of Snow

A snow-coated path
funnels the horizon, narrows
to a tree-lined gap, births
a wide heavy sky.

Ahead, a frozen flock
of ice-black footprints
recede to mottled-grey.
A pilgrimage of people

have passed this way,
marks unnamed,
their clouds of breath
swallowed by air.

Karen Dennison

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