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10 Mar 2024

Matt
Gilbert

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New Moon

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Mar 25th

Our days
were

Feb 24th

After David Inshaw’s

Our Days Were a Joy and

Our Paths Through Flowers

                    Always lacked the prehistoric charms of 

                    galleries next door, that picture, no relic bones, 

                    elk horns or colossal dragonflies. Unlike those 


                    chunks of unearthed fact, its world was one 

                    of surface, urging eyes away, only the woman 

                    at its heart resisted, assisted by a title, lent by 


                    Hardy: Our days were a joy and our paths through 

                    flowers. I didn’t understand, but I liked her dress, 

                    chic, black, next to graves, a human shadow


                    in a snooker-table landscape, daring me to stare. 

                    Slowly, depth emerged from green: yews, neat clipped,

                    low rounded headstones, wilder trees, crowding closer, 


                    small white flecks, on the legs of distant cows, all 

                    suspended in dry paint and time. And waiting, there, 

                    amongst the dead, the girl keeps on growing younger. 

Behind the poem...

As a child, I used to look at David Inshaw’s painting Our Days Were a Joy and Our Paths Through Flowers every time I went to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery with my family. Something about its apparent flatness intrigued me. I can’t say I ever liked the piece, but I did find it strangely fascinating; I had to see it every time I visited. This poem is an attempt to capture a flavour of the painting, its effect on me, and how that effect changed over time. I’ve also written about this painting in more detail on my website – about its connection (via its title) to the final line of Thomas Hardy’s poem, After a Journey.

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