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16 May 2022

Louise
Longson

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Full Moon

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May 30th

Hidden in Plain Sight

Apr 30th

Inspired by Isabella and the Pot of Basil

by William Holman Hunt

               I would not keep it in the bedroom

               in a skull-swagged majolica pot; I

               do not need the constant reminder

               of living death—exhausted, sleepless

               nights— nurturing the mementos

               of your cruelly spent love.


               Corruption is always hidden

               underground, It flows like the dark

               taste of tears, salting the earth.

               A bitter scent that grows green,

               lush and flourishing; leaves blood-

               red petals strewn on the ground.


               No-one knows where he has gone.

               He is something buried in the past

               now; part of another unheard tale

               of untold ears and mouths filled with

               dirt. On the windowsill in the kitchen

               it attracts less notice, less suspicion.

Behind the poem...

In William Holman Hunt's 'Isabella and the Pot of Basil', a woman mourns her lover, murdered by her brothers. She has concealed her lost love's head within the pot on which she lays hers. This story of love, hate, violence, abuse, chronic bereavement and mental breakdown has many present-day social resonances – some of them personal. Far from portraying his subject as an archetype of fragility, Hunt answered critics in his time by saying he wanted Isabella to look as if she could cut off a head. I've played with the story somewhat . Who's to say her lover wouldn't have ended up like other men in a world of such toxic masculinity?