Mother Teresa

'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.

                                                                         Mother Teresa

                                                                               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

                                                                                                                                                       so       

                                                                                                                                                                   wonderful.

 

                                                                               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.

 

                                                                                Or

                                                                                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."