Carolyn Sheehan Gandouin


Susan Jamison

To the Artist

I am a topiary girl,
getting bushy.
Pluck me.

A mosaic madam,
dropping tiles.
Grout me.

Paper-mache molded,
worn-waisted.
Paste me.

A wicker woman,
and wicked,
so cane me.

Don’t forget the blood and bone.
I want flowers.
Spread me.

Use your ranging hands
and reinvent me;

me a wax dolly,
candlewicked,
melting.

I am a portrait,
and posing.
You framed me.

Look, I am Venus,
defenceless;
so arm me;

My feet are of clay,
so fire me,
glaze me;

make me an image,
give me a form,

and finish me,
finish me,
finish me.

The Studio

Linseed oil and turpentine and sweat:
I pick my way across the studio floor
and heave the window open.

I lean into the skim-milk morning
with its thin light; I inhale
industry fumes.
I am high. All is grey:

I gaze down the Faubourg St Denis
grey pigeons, grey stone,
winter’s selfish monochrome;
hard facts under a street of grey sky.

Then across, I see
a woman on a balcony
watching me; my smile
does not travel; aloof,
she retreats behind
her pale geraniums.

That’s Paris. I turn
back to you; priming
a canvas, intent
on travail; do you know,
as you work,
a rosy cone of your tongue
pokes out to one side,
distorting your rubber-band mouth?

I want to kiss
those supple lips
entwine my fingers
in your paint-oily hair;

you are working.
I desist.
I save up the urge.

I pour two bowls of coffee
and watch the gradual film
with its rainbow
form on yours as it cools.

My coffee is already gone.
It is never enough.

Poem for Dali

I am stamping my
square gala heels
on Catalan cement,

in a hot noon
Barcelona. My hair
hisses like snakes;

it’s siesta hour,
Salvador. Say
you are twenty

years younger;
let’s lie as the coins
rain down

from your fountain,
and laugh at the downpour,
at the uproar;

my tender finger
turns your moustache,
wax as a candle at Mass.

The difference between you
and a madman, you said,
is that you are not mad.

You’re a moon, in phase
between genius touched
and old master.

Dali, my darling, I’ve laid
my wreath of wire
at your floppy dial;

calling you
on the lobster phone,
burning with love like giraffes.

I’ll take your landscapes,
licked china slickness,
and the smear of shit

that besmirches the corners
of dreams without scissors.

Gala, the gallows.
My image stays sharp,
and it does not cut.

esacpeintolife poetry jamison 2

Art is Long

1.

We stand a foot apart
before Famed Work
of Dead Painter.
It looks smaller,
framed, beyond the books.
It looks fake.
I like it.

I see a synthesis
of incoming data,
engendered by analysis of form;

you see a tangle
of disparate detail,
spun, like so much salad, in the brain.

2.

I take a shot to the head.
Recover the print,
and ponder how light,
in report of form,
got it so wrong?
A flash, a shaved second,
monumental black and white,
and there I am,
rudely delivered.

3.

You are an acrobat;
tenderness, pain and derision
held in your hands.

I am a prostitute
to notion and expression,
flaunting my mask.

4.

You see truth where I see
impressions and you see
nothing but discipline lacking
where I see divinity

and we are looking
at the same wall
and bouncing off
our private faces,

standing in our private places,
one foot apart.

Pounding the Spices

I am pounding spices
in a marble mortar.
The pestle warms the grip
of my hand.

I see letters
on the outside sky,
alphabet puffs.
So far an
A, M, N —
I squint at the plane,
a nimble, silver dart,
farting clouds of text;

in my kitchen,
the rising air of grains,
seeds, roots,
tickles my nerves;
the radio’s half-tuned,
static burr
over Lou Reed
gets those spices
pounded harder;

Vicious,
you hit me with a flower . . .

cardamom, cinnamon,
garam masala;
A, M, N, E . . .
pound, grind,
anticipating S;

but the plane
forgets its script,
four letters hover,
going to seed.

An overdue book
by Bourtchouladze
rests on the bench,
with its talk
of the wiring of seahorses.
The library sends me
threatening letters:
Please Return Memories
Are Made of This.

My memory is good,
I am merely disorganised.
Aroma clouds me,
I pound, and I pound.

Clusters of thought
on the tip of my tongue,
dear as saffron.
Souvenirs hover,
unfinished words,
evocative spices.

I cease my pounding,
give arms up to thought,
and an S appears in the sky.

I gaze, awaiting an I, A,
but what comes is an eventual T, Y.

Carolyn Sheehan Gandouin is a teacher and poet living in the inner west of Sydney, Australia. Her work has appeared in Sun and Sleet, the Poets Union Anthology, and she is an active member of both the Poets Union and Poetry Australia. This is her first American publication. She is currently working on a novel.




  • Very classical works.

  • I hope my paintings were of some inspirations for these lovely sensual words.

  • By the way, this was posted on my birthday.

  • What a wonderful coincidence, belated birthday greetings, we love your work!

  • Anonymous

    Beautifully evocative lines these! I’m lost in the aroma of spices, feelings, memories and the activities! i.e. pounding spices, stamping heels…
    “My memory is good, I am merely disorganised. Aroma clouds me, I pound, and I pound.”

    As a Dali fan, it was interesting to read ‘Poem for Dali. Wonder how the Master would’ve reacted? 🙂
    “I am stamping my square gala heels on Catalan cement, in a hot noon Barcelona. My hair hisses like snakes; it’s siesta hour, Salvador. Say you are twenty years younger;…”