Talking Paint

"Painting is silent poetry & poetry is painting that speaks." Plutarch

Artwork and Poetry ~ by Vivien Steels

More Poetry


Vivien Steels

The body curled into a chrysalis,
slept for the darkness
soft within a womb of life,
suspended and silent.

The light fell onto the brittle case.
Energy flowed through the hidden form.
The head lifted,
the wings rose
drawn to the sky.

Patterns dusted with colour
filled each floating wing.
Life lifted and fell
with each stroke.

The wings strengthened.
Vein became bone,
dust became feather,
butterfly became bird.

The bird shimmered and sang,
sifting the air for food.
Blue pointed tail;
blue stretched wing,
diving and rising
between earth and sky.                   

The wings lengthened.
Bone became strong.
Feather became skin.
Bird became child.

The child sat, arms outstretched,
seeing the spinning world
marbled below her.
Patterns coated with colour
filled each eye.
She was one -
with butterfly, bird
and whole world.

Published in Yoga and Life magzine - 1981
and Colette Baron-Reid - Your Articles - August 2010                                                    
Illustrated with 'From Chrysalis to Starbaby'
(Inspired by a dream I had after a course of Yoga and Meditation in 1980.)


How Wisdom Comes
Vivien Steels

Alone ~
drenched in water jewels,
emerging from stream cleansed
to face sun, Giver of Fire, Giver of Life,
offering praise unspoken
to the Great Spirit breathing through
greenness of green,
blueness of blue,
rockness of rocks,
inspired to listen ~
all in abeyance
but spirit itself.

Wind, rain and stars are the Bible
for studying earth’s face,
Peace Pipe, the weapon to war
for a path run closer to God.
Smoke, drawn into lungs,
emerges through nostrils,
rises to mists of clouds 
translated into prayer.

Alone ~
immersed in gift of wisdom
blanketing creased body,
crowning headdress
feathered with good deeds,
walking amongst the Grandfathers
he talks with God.

Published in The Beehive/Just Words 2001, in Write-Away - Summer 2002, 
Panda No: 16 – October 2003 and
Colette Baron-Reid - Your Articles - August 2010
Illustrated with 'Rocky Bear'


Vivien Steels

Time holds out its hands
offering gifts, as fruit on trees,
gifts remembered as a child
when the world shone deeper
with the vibration of wonder,
filling fresh spring air
with silks of dawn
swirling over dewed grass
when you ran, feet bare,
listening to each birdsong
spiralling its melody
above a green, green garden,
flowers wide-eyed
to splash in sun,
perfume rising like incense,
colours moving like dreams.

Rain falls, glittering its necklace
into my open hands
before copper sunset retreats
dancing into blue-black night
threaded with stars
to turn again,
calling me from safety of sleep
to receive another gift.

Published in Forward Press Poets 2009 (The Midlands) – 31 Dec 2009
Also published in Boloji Anthology - June 2006                                                   Illustrated with 'Pear Drop' - original edited photograph


Vivien Steels

The huge round Sun Dragon clawed the horizon,
clambered into the sky, breathed fire –
glaring down, wide-eyed.

Grey-white foetus, unborn yet dead,
bob and sway as the clear shallows
run at the edge of the bay.

A fishing boat cuts the sea.
Ropes splay from the sides
dragging the oval bodies, stiff as blades,
away from the blood-beach.

Carcasses, cross-cut, disembowelled,
trail red strings – feasts for sea hawks.
The Sun Dragon had seen the beginning of this end.

The fishermen had herded together,
wooden force ready to invade.

Nine hundred boats arc
behind swiftly sea-flying dolphins.
Nets close as man’s roped jaws trap his prey.
Screaming, the fishermen send shock waves of sound,
metal banging on metal, through cerulean sea.
Death’s mouth snaps shut.
Blue is dyed red as dolphins leap tail-less
snorting for air, stomachs spilling life.

Sakaguchi, priest, leaves his yellow house for Thatsuno.
April lifts the Sun Dragon hot and cruel.
One thousand dolphins are carved
onto the stone of time,
an elegy of war –
man versus animal.
He prays
  for peace.



Published in Write-Away - Summer 2001                                                                      (The barbaric killing of dolphins is still going on in Japan.  Please go to The Whale Campaign to find out more and sign a petition to stop the slaughter of these beautiful creatures.)



Vivien Steels

The echo of ourselves –
a lifetime in love –
indestructible if we persevere
for the next song,
poem, picture, person, saint,
all sent specially for us,
all devices made to reach us
as day falls through stained glass
tracing sunlight to heaven.

Separate from food and drink
(that dependable magic)
our spiritual elixir, energising,
blessing our bodies with peace -
peace, travelling along green-shadowed paths,
joy, spiralling into blueness of blue sky,
love, enfolding our hearts with
  echoes of a lifetime.

Published in Moodswing No: 8 – July 2003, Panda No: 16 – October 2003, in Expose'd - November 2003 and in Reflections 60 – Spring 2006                                          Illustrated with 'St Edmund's Church, Holme Pierrepont'




Boxing Clever
Vivien Steels

Mysterious full moon
highlights fist fights,
hares boxing clever,
followed by race-the-wind dashes,
wide amber eyes everywhere,
long ears echoing back legs
propelling elongated body,
russet as fox,
above fields of dew,
quick scuts signalling white
over wood piles,
past trees,
across streams,
scaring strands of silver
up to heaven’s floor,
to shine momentarily
with stars settled there
from time before time.

Published in Krax 45 - 2008                                                                            Illustrated with 'Dark Night' (moon detail)




Foreign Fields*
Vivien Steels

My lady rides to foreign fields
Beyond the bower of my love,
Whose outer walls are covered
With old age and poverty –
No friends of mine.
Her heart has turned against me –
A key locked in a secret door –
Brothers telling falsely of my deeds
To debauch my intentions,
Besmirch my name with treach’rous green.

My wolfhound pines beneath the desk
As pen scratches parchment,
Grating like flies at walls.
I drink misery in cupfuls,
Ink spots dropping like beads of sweat,
Pouring out pain into words.
She, who has wounded me with beauty,
Now walks her garden with another,
Hair golden as barley;
Eyes jewelled with light for her only.

Give me my steed, friend of years,
Give me my hound, gentle in obedience,
Give me my quill, sanity from loss.
I will ride to foreign lands
Saddled with songs for gold,
Searching for one true-love to worship,
Feel the fire of Venus illuminate my soul
And step forth to take her hand.

Twelfth century ballad published in 'The Champion' by Elizabeth Chadwick
   (Little, Brown & Co [UK] 1997)  Illustrated with 'Rose Archway'



To Say Goodbye
Vivien Steels

Not accustomed to death’s dance
storms lash my shore.
Food has lost its flavour,
colours their brightness,
scents their smell.
Body won’t work –
arms and legs jangle
like tangled marionette.
Eyes stream constant tears
as if cheeks are flowers to be watered.
Wet tissues encircle me
for overcoat of grief (that vast ocean)
weighs down blocking spontaneity,
freezing me in permanent frost,
where shock and denial
have refrigerated any feelings.

Oh, yes, now I’m angry.
A wasting body where once
laughed my father, funny and warm,
teasing my seriousness away,
driving me to ‘the pictures’,
playing French Cricket on the back lawn,
buying my first rabbit.
Angry that a life cut off halfway
can shut down like an epilogue.
How dare he leave me!
Hairbrush smacks mirror
shattering image of self.

What if someone else could have died?
Who would I have chosen?
Why can’t he come back?
Not sure he’s really gone –
keep glimpsing his face,
dark hair, blue eyes,
in crowds, on television,
smell his smell,
dream he’s returned from distant lands.
Why didn’t I…?  What if…?

Emotions translate into pain.
I sweat, I hurt,
skin blotches like purple patchwork,
stomach churns like cement mixer,
head throbs like drumbeat,
heart skips to a tune I don’t recognise,
palpitations announce next attack.
Depression has hit rock bottom
whirl-pooling its loop
(no remission for good behaviour).

Getting through, icy lesson learnt for the future.
He is free from pain’s grasp,
free, drifting from me
while trapped, vulnerable,
moods riding a rollercoaster, life suspended,
I’m caught between pain and healing,
cutting myself up
  I never got to say

Published in Write-Away 2000 and Expose'd - November 2003 (Photo of me and my father.)



So You Have M.E.
Vivien Steels

You have muscle weakness,
you have exhaustion,
you have pain.
But you have four walls upstairs,
four walls downstairs
and a bit of the garden,
if you are lucky –
on a good day.

You cannot walk far,
you cannot think straight,
you cannot talk long.
But you have a bed upstairs,
a sofa downstairs
and a bit of concentration,
if you are lucky –
on a good day.

You have an ignorant GP,
you have an arrogant Consultant,
you have negative tests.
But you have a radio upstairs,
a television downstairs
and a book to read,
if you are lucky –
on a good day.

Today is a bad day.

Published in Smiths Knoll No:8 – 1994, WRITE-AWAY – Winter 2003, 
*Promise* - first collection of poems/colour illustrations designed/printed by
Vivien Steels/Vivi*Press – June 2003 & MESH Nottingham Newsletter – Nov/Dec 2007 Illustrated with 'From a Kitchen Window'