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Poetry Inspired by The Exhibition Phantom Sculpture

Ciara Flynn

Views of Virgin Variations

Virgin Variations by Jesse Darling

Inspired by ‘Virgin Variations’ (Jesse Darling, 2019).

The brushwork is rushed,

it was a quick cover up,

quick as the way innocence fades,

pale pink of a childhood bedroom

faint on the glass.

Below is grief,

unraveled thick string

pointing to wine bottles,

only one has a cork in, unused,

labels worn and withered.

Next door is coping

covered with a nightdress,

a rose for cleavage,

lace trapped between the glass,

the material flimsy and light.

Something is underneath,

I shouldn’t be looking.

I am bent like the silver spatula,

a voyeur,

stuck staring.

Yet, the plastic sheet has holes,

windows to my keen eyes,

inviting me in, drawing attention

like a smashed shop window

boarded up.

Another has green film,

peeled away,

white sheet over a body,


the sharp inhale muffled.

Scrunched up paper with a black cross

lies in front of two naked men kissing,

a slammed door and a broken finger,

fake petals taped to the glass,

an artificial bandage.

Alisha Ahsanuddin


Inspired by ‘Virgin Variations’ (Jesse Darling, 2019).

My hands clasp together, closing my eyes as I utter a single prayer.

Layer after layer of toilet paper engorged my locker, I could hear every snicker.

God knows the real me. That’s all I need to be happy.

They’re wrong about me.

They’re wrong about me.

I smile at the presence of the rose in my locker, knowing it was from my darling,

he was calling me, a picture of us together as he carried me stuck to the door.

I sniffed the flower, smiling, feeling like I was flying –

we’d meet during recess, after his classes,

ashes to ashes those rumours would go.

They’d all be proven wrong,

they’d see that when they know

they were wrong about me.

They were wrong about me.

My hands clench at my locker, eyes to the floor,

I couldn’t look at anyone, no matter who entered the door.

I was a slut, a disgrace, I was a slap in the face,

my lover had been arrested, fired from his teaching.

It was my fault. It was my fault. But the preaching didn’t help.

Help me. Help me.

I ripped the words of god from my locker, staring at myself in the mirror.

He didn’t save me when I needed it. But thanks to him I see clearer.

My existence a lie, a pawn in my parents’ design

I was never Christ’s good girl, I never let my true self unfurl

I strip my locker bare, not knowing the why but the how.

I could finally be myself, and I was starting right now.

They weren’t wrong about me.

I was wrong about me.

I picked out the lacy dress in my locker, smiling at its warm colour.

A gift from her, my true lover.

My knight in shining armour, my daring prince,

I finally let myself live, and she’s been by my side ever since.

As I stare at the rose she gave me, I remember the past,

the longing from someone who didn’t love me back,

who used me, abused me, didn’t care if he didn’t please me.

But I was finally free.

I was finally free.

I smiled as I cleared out my locker one last time,

the end to my yearly pantomime.

pictures of new friends and old,

all of which loved every part of me, the shine and the mould.

I grabbed out the bottles at my girlfriend’s request,

Waving farewell to the locker that had known me the best

….I didn’t think I’d be at this locker again.

I looked younger. I felt younger. Was this Gods’ intent?

I stared at the empty container, realising that for my crimes

I’d been transported back to 1995.

I was back to where it began.

Oh no.

Oh no.

I can’t help but stare at the picture I’d taken in my locker,

my nose wrinkling up in confusion and disgust.

My father and another man, penises hand in hand,

lips interlocking with love and lust.

I felt my hands quiver, my body shiver, wondering why he’d hate me

when he did the same, the sins he claimed I was guilty of,

I shook my head, seeing the rose that was taped to the door of my locker.

History had repeated itself, and younger me was none the wiser.

I shook my head, hiding my face and tears in the locker.

It had happened again and there was nothing I could do about it,

naïveté be damned.

I could never escape my teacher’s touch,

I was haunted by his lust that bastard of a man.

It wasn’t my fault. I repeat, it wasn't my fault.

But was it?

Blood trickled down as I held onto his prickly roses,

my heart hiding itself in a vault.

I needed to survive.

I’ll do what I can to survive.

Toilet paper, Toilet plungers. Messages of whoreism for my youthful blunder.

My locker a reminder of my abuser, a box of memories of all my resent.

My hypocrite of a father, my control freak of a mother,

the sleepless nights where I’d repent

“Please fix me” I’d plead, “Please fix me” But it fell on deaf ears.

The world didn’t care that I was scared.

I shook in the hands that grabbed me, looking away

I was almost out.

It would be okay.

I stared at my locker, stuck in a trance.

I realised I was shaking, remembering that haunted dance

I felt her hand on mine, a comfort in this sorrow.

I was free. I was free. There’s always a tomorrow.

I looked at her, nodding, showing I was fine.

We left, hand in hand, we left 95.

Finally, decades after, the memories subsided,

the locker was just a locker, and I was defiance.

Samuele Zappa

Warm Inside

Warm Inside by Jonathan Baldock

Inspired byWarm Inside (i), (viii), (xi)(Jonathan Baldock, 2021).

Vessels floating and drifting and turning endlessly.

Burial sites distorting the carcasses within.

Only their face survives. Or what is left of it.

Nobody wins.

All three have a sort of tension and turmoil to them.

A purple one; its skin painted with the colours

of vanilla and blueberry yoghurt.

A red one; its skin mixed with the colours

of bell peppers and jalapeños.

Its spine is curved; its muscles tense.

A creamy one; its skin tainted with the colours

of highland cows and bulls.

Its crown is inflated; its tip tears.

Its skull stuck in this swollen state forever.

Take a peek inside the cocoons.

Take a look at the parasites inside.

The purple one reveals a human face.

Its eyes closed shut; its mouth stretched apart.

White stuffing lies and collects on the bottom.

Strips of the cocoon lodge themselves up the nostrils.

The red one reveals another human face.

Its eyes scrunched; its mouth stretched open.

Silent screams emanate from the corpse.

Strips of the cocoon pierce the corners of its head.

The cream one reveals two human faces.

Their skin collided; fleshy mountains are formed.

Brown stuffing fills their empty bodies.

Strips of the cocoon impale their chests.

The parasites and their hosts drift forever in space.

Each party longing for an impossible release;

for an end to their perpetual torment.

An end to their coexistence.

The hungry parasites invaded; the cocoons retaliated,

bounding them to their body.

Both are stuck. Both are punished.

Both are forced to exist in this limbo

between life and death

until the end of time.

They drift forever in space.

Once memories of life, vigour, energy, warmth. Now it's just cold nothingness.

It’s a rotting and decaying state, reeking of wool and leather and rotten flesh.

Breathing without lungs; beating without heart; screaming without voice.

They exist together,

until the end of time.