'Mother Teresa' is an ekphrastic poem based on the work of photographer Gillian Wearing’s project ‘Teresa.’ The piece followed the life of an alcoholic woman, Teresa, and her encounters with different men. I found the photographs very striking and they reminded me of the work of Nan Goldin, with their mix of extreme tenderness and implicit violence. The poem uses found text - in this case, excerpts from the letters the men were asked to dedicate to Teresa, which were fiercely intimate and often shocking.
Gillian Wearing. "Teresa and Ben." 1998.
Madonna and her child in a bedsit – picture it.
great orb of flesh and packet of fags
she watches the naked bulb like one watches the moon,
you can turn sideways and open your legs wide
or turn back like a dog.
Lying on a bed and lying on a bed and lying on a bed
so the day smiles past and
the only time I have freedom is with Teresa
these men of apish legs and swollen bellies and mother’s
love like sad balloons who flock to Teresa
oh I love you Teresa because you are
Once told her voice could still a curdling cat, now her skin is pulled,
burnished over fat -
so she is nothing
but a postage stamp on the letter of his life
so she is nothing
but a curtain heaving red light
over the human couch of her flesh.
I don’t know the answer to my own problems
so I can’t cure hers.
Yet in moments of subaqueous blue
Teresa is mother nature,
she is heaving flanks of coastal grass, she is wind-mucked trees in an
endless field, she is a landscape to scream into so that the wind thieves your very cries.
She is a homestead with burning windows on a prairie so those travelling men
feel their veins are warm,
she is the hushed heat of the womb we spend our lives trying to claw back to,
she is something turned over in the ground
something grown in the spaces that no one watches - so she blooms with a fungal joy.
As long as you are with Teresa you are never short of a pillow
You can use her breasts.
Words by: Lydia Rose Rostant.
Lydia Rose Rostant studies English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Manchester and originally from Gloucestershire. When asked why she writes poetry, her answer was short but sweet: "I write poetry because often its the easiest way to convey complex emotions."