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Fra Angelico: The Annunciation (detail) 1434–46, via Wikimedia Commons

“It’s a fascinating conundrum and ties in with your paper.”

“My Fra Angelico study will never be finished. It’s already on life support.”

“That’s why you must see this — it’s a gift from the 15th century and will revamp your whole perspective.”

Patrick glanced across at her as he drove along. A darting look from slate grey eyes keen as arrows. Elspeth looked out the window, reluctant to meet his gaze. She still couldn’t believe she was sitting in the passenger seat of his battered Land Rover, bumping over narrow tracks towards a village called Helstone. …

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Carlotta Grisi as Giselle, c1841, via Wikimedia Commons

The girl is smiling at him, her dark eyes sparkling, wine glass clasped — a little over full, perhaps. A glass of house red, rim smudged, base chipped, from one of those snug bistros tucked away in the theatre district that serve standard Italian fare and stay open late.

The young man’s attention is wholly on her, his smile half-realised. He seems handsomer in profile, the look of a classical faun — cheekbones defined, the neck of a thoroughbred. No doubt a pulse beat deeply within at that very moment. The photograph is black and white, shot with a 35mm…

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Mitchell Ng Liang/Unsplash

‘Look after her,’ said the superior one,
as she began her descent
on a toiling short-legged mule
loaned by a patchouli merchant,
down the winding path
to the low lying stews of the real world,
far from those breathless
heights — and she glanced back
only once at the mountain’s
brutal flanks
where her sister — the demon,
so recently plunged to her death,
tumbling from heaven’s perch,
an outcast,
raddled with lust,
and it could so easily have been her.

The locals shun the grave, another pale foreigner, a woman gone feral, making it a place of bad spirits…

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Crystal Gard/Unsplash (edited)

The sybarites are horribly hungover,
their cross hatching is a little too heavy,
so they ask Pablo politely
if he could switch to drypoint instead?

For the harem scene,
the adorable magpie has conjured up
a new curtain from old fishing nets
and discarded stars,
but it’s only half-strung,
and she’s now gone back to examine
her latest catch in her darkroom
under the Seine.

Pablo Pygmalion is in a sour mood, this aguafuerte is a dirty hustle, scratching backwards like a hen over scorched ground, watching the bubbles froth as they gobble up the lines, not knowing how the…

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Benigno Hoyuela / Unsplash

The Eve of Saint Nicholas. In a sprawling suburb of Vienna, snow is falling, as thick and as soft as goose feathers. A young girl skips along the pavement, oblivious of the grey ice lurking under the powdery layers. Liesl knows her father is waiting for her, sheltering under the awning of the Gloriette Confiserie, in the window’s rosy glow. And she will run to him and he’ll take her by the hand and lead her through the door that rings like tiny sleigh bells, into the heavenly domain of chocolate delights.

All the well-behaved children look forward to a…

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Will Francis/Unsplash

Romance has gone rotten, a brief casualty of history eroded by bad weather and unruly tides. The old gilding scraped back from tarnished memory uncovers the myth of a love boat enslaved to holidays, once painted eau de nil, now ensconced in the seafield, bows unrecognisable, passed over from time to time by migrating mackerel.

Sadly it was a drab craft, flat-bottomed, tethered to a pleasure palace raised above the sea, that arcadia of wrought iron and glass, crowned by a winter garden echoing to shingle’s rasp, where rusty palms expired to the tune of parlour violins. …

A poem

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Ruslan Fatihov/Unsplash

I tried to drown you,
but you floated — Pre-Raphaelite,
supine, inviolate,
Lizzie in the bath tub,
strewn with stars and wildflowers,
your wavering motion
taking my thoughts downstream,
coaxed into an ocean

Your tired straps
slipped from shoulders
unkissed — his bleak words
already forming filigree reefs
high above the wreck,
shored by willow,
where transparent tides
cross over,
and shards of regret
dig into delicate flesh.

You were the template
the gods discarded on a whim,

Ondine gone awry,
a lovelorn leaf cast down
upon an ephemeral river
eager to swallow your madness.

Yet no…

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Ganapathy Kumar/Unsplash (edited)

Lise Colas

writes poetry and short fiction as well as quirky unreliable memoir and lives on the south coast of England.

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