The Shape Of Things

 I spent a few days with my mother in London last weekend. The Sunday was lovely and sunny and I decided to walk through Brixton, and Herne Hill, to Dulwich Picture Gallery to see the Ravilious exhibition. I wanted to tell you about it but a poem emerged instead. So, a poem it will have to be.


The Shape of Things

On my way to the gallery,

I walk a broad sunny road

With square red pitched roofs

And dormer windows

Rectangular gardens sown with sticks of copper beech

flowers galore, daffodils,

pink and white cherry blossom along the street,

gravel drives with perfect round pots

a lovely row of curvaceous lamp posts

an old railway bridge.

The scene is set in a sepia blue sky,

Painted with planes and slashed

with trailing lines of white jet cloud.

Arriving, hot and tired, I buy my ticket

but there is a wait.

I sit at the café, outside at a table

a lone shape in the stretch of the day

my ear cupped to catch the words of the well dressed women,

and well to do men.

From nowhere

Out of the blue of the sky,

from the green of the grass,

the yellow of the sun,

I hear a voice

I have been watching you for a while.”

I shade my eyes, my hand peaked

He stands, a handsome grey silhouette

I am flattered.

He and his sister ask to sit down

I gaily wave my hand.

They order coffee. He asked about mine.

His eyes were oval shaped and sparkled.

I  almost fall in love.

He had just arrived from Australia

His sister started to plan his stay.

Tuesday, Belfast. Saturday for friends.

Then Southampton,  Bristol. Back to Gatwick.

He didn’t know the lie of the land.

He sought clarification with a wallet, coffee cup and me

Marking us out.

“I am West.” I said. “Beyond the coffee cup.

Southampton is the other way.”

Conversation turns to distance.

“I am not so good with numbers,”

he turns his eyes to me again.

We are almost there

How many children have you?”

his sister asks him, suddenly.

He answers “three

and one wife,” she adds.

I walk into the gallery with care

Proud, full of grace

Straight back

I am a beautiful woman

I know my place.

I am here to see Ravilious

An artist I had not heard of

And, this time I fall in love.

An ancient no. 29 bus sprawls


In Great Bardfield, Essex

On four wooden barrels

With a winding staircase

All shape.

A waterwheel of rotary blades

Four waddling, white fat geese,


A south coast beach

a blue rimmed boat wrapped

in barbed wire

on a landscape of water colour.

An impression of surrealism!

I began to stir as I stared

Ravilious had captured the world

And it was there, there, in front of me.

Planes, caravans, bikes, bombs

Fresh interiors

Dash patterned rooms

Featured from circles

Squares, curvaceous and round.

He captures the White horse in Wiltshire

the Cerne Abbas Giant

Cut out of the chalk

and lets them rests  on the hill side.

Then Ravilious goes to war

Paints darkness and light

A Train Going over a Bridge at Night

A line of explosions of sun on sea

A triangle of dawn over day

Round faces staring in submarines.

Slowly he showed me the shape of things.


One thought on “The Shape Of Things

  1. Martine Large says:

    Lovely, Kate. I love the way that the everyday becomes charged, magical – which is what Ravilious does with his paintings (as you say at the end). I love Ravilious; there’s quite a lot of his stuff in Sussex galleries, which is where I discovered him. I’m going to see the exhibition at the end of April with Kate. Thanks for sharing.

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