poem by  
  keith  o'connor
faces: by  keith o'connor ...  
logo by keith o'connor 
main index Poetry  Index Quick Poetry List


the small sun bleached
grey-white skull
no bigger than my fist
hung eye level
from a branch
swaying slightly
in the chill winter breeze
a primordial boundary marker
a warning to all who may enter
I touched it
afraid to break it
my eyes exploring its forms
forms born from life
lower jaw missing
two teeth missing
left side bone missing
I kept staring
at the small animal skull
it was horribly hauntingly void
small yet gigantic
it threatened my soul
with fear of nothingness
that awful aloneness
of not existing yet existing
that fearful other world
into which I stumbled in decades past
I couldn't put the little skull back
I couldn't run from it
I had to stop it
I took it home
the small skull
harmonized with nothing
it was a death form
empty of soul
belonging with the dead
of the other world
my fear would not let go
down in my studio
I searched and searched
then - as if following
an invisible ancestral hand
I placed the small
delicate skull of death
down on a slab of raw natural slate
they merged
one into the other
the skull of death
had lost its nothingness
as ashes were to ashes
and dust were to dust
it had returned
returned to the fabric of the earth
to wait
wait to become slate
wait to return as life
I thought for a moment of Alison
her slate like paintings
and how she scratched
ground - rubbed - tore
pouring her raw pigments
pigments coloured in a fiery furnace
flowed into and over the canvas
as she excitedly pulls
the very force of life
from her powerful soul
I watched in my mind's eye
as she ground
the little skull of death
mixed and poured it
among the fire born pigments
and textures of her life force
death - life
twisting - turning - pulling
whirling her high
up into an emotional crescendi
I feared as I watched
her soul fly so high
I cried as I saw her body die
and I cried for me
too fearful to fly

Keith O'Connor
2002 - 12 - 16
ottawa ontario canada


Interesting to follow the events behind this poem. I responded to a post about colour pigment- that lead my posting a question to Alison - then I commented on some raw natural slate I had recently purchased in a store that I don't usually go to (unplanned purchase I saw I liked I bought) - Alison commented on her slate like painting technique and I looked at her graphics - my wife and I were out walking and she spotted the skull - my eldest brother had recently died and I had just completed a poem in his memory - my mind had been contemplating the meaning and purpose of life and death - it all came together in this poem which began life as Poem No. 80 something about a little animal skull.


While writing this poem scenes from Shakespeare drifted on the whirling crescendi of the Sorcerer's Apprentice ending with the concept embedded in the Greek myth of the adventurer who flew too high too close to the sun - the name escapes me.

A narrative over view:

This poem makes use of archetypal structuring in weaving its intellectual emotional and physical components . It begins with primal fear - metaphors establish a boundary separating the world of fear as over there.

It challenges the concept of immortality pointing towards the possibility that there is no life after death - that the conscious spirit does not live on. It resolves this terror of nothingness when the skull finds its slate grave - it belongs to a cycle of life - death and then life again.

The artist symbolized by Alison - also a symbol of mother earth - living in a world of pure perception adds death in the form of the ground up skull to her fiery life colours and from her soul pours the water of life into the pigments. Generating the tornado like trance of whirling spirit that rises breaking free of worldly constraints

It ends with the grief of those left behind - the grief of those too fearful to abandon the controls of rules - rule by fear - rule by fear of intimidation - rule by fear of shame - rule by fear of ridicule - rule by jealousy hatred and anger - rule by fear of shunning

All these programmed social constraints prevent us for setting our consciousness free to explore the artistic world of pure perception. The poem ends in victory for the free spirit and tragedy for those who cannot be set free from their socializing constraints.


Copyright © 
 Copyright © / Keith O'Connor /www. tinmanGallery All rights reserved.
tinmangallery banner by keith o'connor