O Skull


John William Waterhouse, The Crystal Ball (1902)

We who are the stymied ones
lose our impulses, shriek amorphously
in our solitariness. O skull,
is death tragic, you tell me,
or a release? Is it deadly dull?

We, the monumental selves,
diminished by our mortal wound,
assay our fortunes flowing
like waves, full of dissent
much like dysentery.

Robed in red, crystal gazing woman
tried to read the signs
practicing witchcraft. I thought
to ask her a steep question.
Alas, she was tight-lipped.

Prompt: Today’s ekphrastic prompt is brought to you by this painting by John William Waterhouse. It had been hanging in the dining room at Glenborrodale Castle, Highland and was sold with the castle in 1952-3. The new owner hated the skull so had it doctored, having it covered by curtains. Subsequently an X-ray by art detectives revealed the skull. Luckily the original surface was still protected by varnish and the addition removed safely.


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