Monthly Archives: March 2014



A teenage girl walks

the November woods at dusk,

leaves no trail of breath.

                                                                        After three hundred

                                                                        years I still look like the child

                                                                        I was modelled on.

Low shafts of sunlight

cut between branches; the girl

stops in a clearing.

                                                                        I’ve known everything

she’d have known and more; lived her

 life four times over.

The girl bends down, scrapes

back leaves to reveal bare earth;

a lone blackbird sings.

I’ve never known the

grip of pain before, and now

I can’t escape it.

The girl claws at the

soil with her fingers; the trees

breathe in unison.

Before yesterday

I’d never harmed another

sentient being.

The earth will not yield;

the girl drops to her knees, mud-

caked hands to her face. 

I am made of earthstuff –

ores torn from the planet’s womb

by those who made me.

The girl lies down, scoops

a blaze of leaves across her

legs, belly and chest.

Ice-hot pain that comes

from everywhere and nowhere

is calling me home.

Now the final leaf

is placed; one uncovered eye

flares, and then grows dark.


(C) Helen Lewis 2011

In the shadows


Beside a tranquil sea where nothing lives

And craters cast their shadows on the dust

A Stay Puft boot print is a sculptor’s mould

That’s waiting for the alloy to be poured.


A woman sits beneath a banyan tree

Her features dappled by the shade it gives

Her palms are open, waiting to receive

The jewel of clarity, however flawed.


Below a rack of handforks, trugs and sieves

Enveloped in the cedar-scented gloom

A box of rockets, Catherine wheels and squibs

Is waiting for the weather to turn cold.


Inside the lightless cavern of these ribs

A lotus bud is waiting to unfold.


(C) Helen Lewis 2012

Renaissance Man


Giovanni Gabbiano was a true Renaissance man. Not that he ever used that term to describe himself – he’d never heard of it. Orphaned at the age of two, Giovanni was brought up by his paternal grandparents, who ran an inn in a small town on the road between Siena and Florence.

Little Giovanni’s mind was like a sponge. When he was just three years old he taught himself to draw, and he began carrying a sketchbook around with him wherever he went, spending hours every day creating meticulous pencil sketches of anything that interested him. He was particularly fascinated by birds, bees and butterflies – anything that flew.

By the age of four he had taught himself to read. He started reading widely; whatever he could lay his hands on. By the time he was ten he had read all the classic works of philosophy in the original Greek and Latin. Giovanni’s Great Uncle Luigi was the village blacksmith, and as a teenager Giovanni spent countless hours tinkering in the forge, making contraptions out of metal. In his sketchbook he had begun drawing inventions; strange machines that sprung up from the fertile field of his imagination.

When Giovanni was nineteen Great Uncle Luigi died and left him his inheritance, and Giovanni at last had the opportunity to follow his dream, which was to move to a great city of culture and learning where he could pursue his studies in earnest.

Giovanni travelled to Florence and, by virtue of a quiet self-confidence combined with a dogged persistence, managed to get an interview at the university. Naturally, he took his sketchbook along to the interview.


The interviewer flipped through Giovanni’s sketchbook and stopped about three quarters of the way through.

‘This would appear to be a drawing of some sort of flying machine.’

‘That is correct.’


‘What do you think?’

‘I don’t know what to think.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I’m not entirely sure you’re living in the right century.’

‘I realise some of my ideas are a bit of ahead of their time, but if one takes an open-minded approach…’

‘Ahead of their time?’

‘I’m known back home as a savant.’

‘Are you sure it’s not idiot savant?’ asked the interviewer, putting particular emphasis on the word idiot.

‘Are you trying to tell me you’re not impressed by my work?’

‘Mr Gabbiano, if you had lived six hundred years ago your work may have been impressive, but this is the twenty-first century, not the fifteenth. Good day.’


(c) Helen Lewis 2014

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