Medieval Marginalia

Napowrimo Challenge Day 24

I initially struggled with this prompt, but once I’d found an angle, it became much easier to write.

The Prompt: 

Write a poem of ekphrasis — that is, a poem inspired by a work of art…base your poem on a very particular kind of art – the marginalia of medieval manuscripts. Here you’ll find some characteristic images of rabbits hunting wolves, people sitting on nests of eggs, dogs studiously reading books, and birds wearing snail shells. What can I say? It must have gotten quite boring copying out manuscripts all day, so the monks made their own fun. Hopefully, the detritus of their daydreams will inspire you as well!

My Response:

 

Hollow

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A young boy, bent and twisted

over a dimly lit desk, peers at the page.

The candle flickers.

Stiff with cold, his bones ache

from long diligent hours, transcribing reverent texts.

His repetitive days pass in silent gloom.

His quill scratches hairy parchment with thin ink.

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Original thoughts are not required,

Nor dreams or ambition.

Bound by his vow of celibacy,

he will never know the passion of young love.

Hunger and starvation pains his body, pains his soul.

Neglect and lack of sustenance drive him

to the point of defacing the page

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with subversive medieval marginalia.

Supressed dreams, desires and anger merge

revealing his inner torment.

Offensive images of vulgarity spill out onto the page.

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He longs to run away from the sordid squalor,

from the dark, cold and damp monastery.

To stretch his legs, straighten his back,

feel sun on his face as he runs into the arms

of one who smiles and cares.

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The monastic life drives him away

rather than draws him nearer to God.

 Are the words he pens so hollow?

 

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