(Upon visiting the exhibition ‘The De Morgans and the Sea’)
‘Who would not be delighted to go a-sailing
In one of Mr De Morgan’s dream-ships’
(Architect, contemporary of William and Evelyn De Morgan)
I am a sailor of the ceramics
commissioned for the P & O
and the Czar’s rich oligarchy.
Perchance I dream
of a tiled trireme
and a glimpse of the Evelyn stars.
A string of mermaids –
bare of breast, blank of face –
mournful of their sister’s death.
Tales of Hans Christian
and Greek mythology.
Did Theseus sail this rictus boat?
Laugh as he dumped Ariadne?
Here’s an overload of symbolism,
chromatic feast for eyes and soul.
Deep plates of lustrous reds and whites;
my galleon revealed in a soup bowl.
I make and bake a repeating pattern –
fish, serpent, fish, serpent –
like an ekphrastic Morse code;
table decorations with open mouths.
The softly violet gallery carpet
swims before my dazzled eyes.
I am carried away,
First published in Orbis
Allen Ashley has had poetry published in venues such as “Brittle Star”, “Orbis” and the paper Swans anthology “The best of British”. He is the co-author (with Sarah Doyle) of “Dreaming Spheres: Poems of the Solar System” (PS Publishing, 2014).