Talking Paint

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

Artwork and Poetry ~ by Vivien Steels

My Poetry 

Vivien Steels

emerald leaves worshipping sun
soaking up sun synthesised

for endless green sea
of canopied world

pumping chlorophyll to
heart of its centre

where under spells of seasons
a place of treasure thrives

trunks buttressing forest floor
some bleeding poison

fruits as big as footballs
falling as manna for elephants

forest forty metres high
roots deep as oceans

drinking warm rain 
poured out in cloudfuls

for growing vines marching
faster than soldier ants

through viridian worlds
echoed in lakes of silver

Published in WAH2 - Summer 2005                                                                 Illustrated with 'Fuchsia' (detail)



Blue Haiku
Vivien Steels

Blue tissue petals
washing over eyes turquoise waves
from Pacific seas.

Lapis Lazuli –
that precious jewel-colour
filters blue through mind.

Sky strums sapphire song
hosting clouds of swift swallows
above azure earth.

Published in Write-Away - Autumn 2003.  Illustrated with 'Himalayan Poppies' (detail)




A Festival of Books
Vivien Steels

Sun, mellow as cheese,
rolls gold over yellow stone bridge,
ducks revealing tail-curls,
beaks weed-wards,
as cycling lazily –
mailbag angled in basket –
the postman circles the village
with words from outside.

The bookshop, windows glazed
with latest covers and posters proclaiming
flings open its mouth
to welcome friend and stranger
as rows of shelves host
silent reams of printed paper,
bound, awaiting freedom,
to be lifted up, opened,
devoured by eyes soaking up sentences,
paper money swapped for streams of wisdom,
enticing novels, pregnant poems,
singing storybooks, travel tales,
transporting readers from village
to places dreamt of in a wider world.

2nd Prize – Lowdham Book Festival 2000 Poetry Competition
Published in Boloji



Give me a Pen
Vivien Steels

Give me a pen
and some paper,
sheaves of wheat
and fruit from a vine.

Give me a cup
and a platter,
new-baked bread
and blazing butter.

Give me a kiss
and a lover,
a sweet-smelling bed
and pillows of lavender.

Give me a roof
and the greenest bower,
a cat at my feet
and a rabbit in clover.




Give me time
and a turning hour-glass,
silver through hair
and lines on my face.

Give me paint
and colours of jewels,
brushes of sable
in deepest of pools.

Give me a space
for striking gold,
pen in my hand
and the tale untold.

Published in Wordshare 22 - Spring 2003                                               Illustrated with 'Pink Lavender'



Sea Otter
Vivien Steels

Bands of amber kelp
anchor furred body
floating on back,
rafting against tug of tide
liquorice nose lifted,
small eyes closed,
as sunbathing under settled sky
meals from sea’s kitchen
gained on diving trips –
starfish, squid, crab, abalone –
are prepared
shell bashed against stone tool
resting on rounded belly
like hammer on anvil,
prising open juicy riches
with webbed paws.

Grooming waterproof coat,
blowing air bubbles
to inflate own lifejacket,
rolling close to female with kit,
who rides clinging, squealing
when she disappears for food
beneath choppy waves.

He kidnaps suckling
forcing mate to share catches,
nuzzles her streaked coat,
returns offspring,
then floating on backs,
rafting against roll of tide
under settled sky,
they sunbathe side by side.

Published in Orbis No: 123 – February 2003                                                      Illustrated with 'Sea Otter' (pen and ink)


Where My Heart Was
Vivien Steels

You know this hole in my chest –
that’s where my heart was.
I didn’t think I could bear pain
wrapped like barbed wire around my bruised body.

The loss of you, Sylvie, my beautiful daughter
is the death of me – I don’t think I can go on.

Today your father forced unwilling feet into work shoes,
after the case against your killer fell through,
like shifting sand down a desert pit.

We have joined a Bereavement Group.
Everyone means well, but here pain, nailed to a cross,
speaks its prayer to anyone who listens.
We all shut our eyes, opening our ears.

My heart keeps on beating even in a void.
I cannot sleep, cannot eat, cannot think.

Your room is just as it was – essence of you.
I open your jumper drawer,
burying my face in your fragrance.
I’m close to you then.

I have dreams.  I kill him,
execute the man, who executed you.
I yearn to.

I go to the gym supposedly to lose weight,
but I need to be super-fit, a fighting-machine.
I have approached a vigilante group.
I want your killer killed,
want this pain avenged,
want you back.

Come back home, Sylvie,
laughing with love, dancing with joy,
singing with life, smiling your eternal smile –
you are always in my heart.

You know this hole in my chest –
that’s where my heart was.

Published in Quill & Parchment - January 2007



Magdala Mansions
Vivien Steels

Ground Floor Flat
Miss Kibbens, eighty-four, cat lover (no pets allowed);
white-gold hair braided, haloed about her head,
heaves cast iron pot from scullery shelf
on to boisterous gas burner
to boil fish heads and bits from Mr Sole,
fishmonger in the square,
odour percolating up flights of stairs.
Her garden of straggly grass and wildflowers
is host to a restaurant of strays
all competing for the best dish.

First Storey -  Flat No: 1
Shelley is pretty, young, loves make-up & Brad Pitt;
works on Maltby’s store cosmetics counter,
nails dipped in red-black blood, lips to match,
white coat reminiscent of a hospital;
remedying the ills of slightly older ladies
with pantheons of chemical potions,
necessitating the remortgage of houses.
Her balcony hosts the world’s largest collection
of pot plants in the smallest concreted area,
so she can drink Alco-pop al fresco.

Second Storey - Flat No: 2
Dave - builder, plumber, electrician, cat-hater -
is Jack-of-all-Trades and Jack-the-Lad.
His attractive customers (female) often end up
bottoms up in his lumpy bed, sheets laundered
by Shirley at the local laundrette, Hot Tub,
seething suds and gossip with equal velocity.
His flat reeks of discarded take-aways
rarely taken out to the dustbin downstairs;
his only view of outside - a red-brick wall -
one side of the rancid-fat crisp factory.

Third Storey - Flat No: 3
No one has seen the person who lives here.
The door is scratched, the varnish is peeling
and a fetid mat curls up to woodworm woodwork
in the rank darkness, because the shattered light bulb
has never been changed, banisters dusted, carpet hoovered,
or the key turned in the lock.

Published in South 31 – April 2005                                                                
Illustrated with 'Red Geraniums'