THE OVERWHELMING URGE

By Ella Frears • 002: Shadows

GREY CLOUD & YELLOW DROOP

by artist SARAH SLAPPEY

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Stabbed in the arm with a compass.

            Stabbed in the side. Ink

                                    everywhere. Ink in her mouth.

Saint Sebastien of St Ives, holy

                        on the supermarket roof

            throwing moss at passers by.

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She’s seen Some Like it Hot maybe twenty times.

                        A hard kernel of a soul,

she practises softness.

            Pouted baby-mouth in the mirror:

                                    I used to sell kisses for the milk fund!

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Stormy, sticky with flies,

                        nettles brushing her ankles,

she bends,

            picks a doc leaf, rubs

                        until the anklebone is green.

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            A herd of cows gather to watch.

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He wants to show her something

                        by the metal farm gate.

She, nodding, surveys it from a distance,

            mentally files it under:

                                                penis; moonlit.

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            In the dark, the shapes of cows.

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            The ground is dirty with dirt. The air, dirty

with smoke; she, clean as a whistle, hops over the stile.

            I used to sell kisses for the milk fund!

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            Below is the town, crammed in

against the yellow beaches

            and all around the sea is endless, aching.

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While she wrestled him on the hill,

                        the badgers, the horses, the sheep

worked away, shovelling

            their hearts into the landscape. 

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When he cried, the wind whisked his tears away

            and out to sea.

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She has the overwhelming urge to jam

                        her tongue into a plug socket,

            swing an axe

at her legs, swim out, out, out,

                                    she’s itchy with it. 

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For now there’s nothing to do

                        but finger one another

uncomfortably at the shoreline.

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For now there’s nothing

                        to do but walk

together in the brilliant air, pick up lumps

                                    from a freshly tilled field

            and ask –  rock or mud?

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Abstract painting in greys, weaving hands and fingers into bulbous shapes

GREY CLOUD and YELLOW DROOP (oil on canvas) featured in the exhibition Dark Spring at Sargent’s Daughters in New York in Spring 2019:

Life is unbearable without tragedy’ –Unica Züm

‘The exhibition Dark Spring takes its title from Unica Züm’s 1967 short novel of the same name, which traces the erotic awakening and subsequent suicide of a young girl. Züm’s nameless heroine is engaged in masochistic fantasies that combine pain and pleasure, immersing herself in a suffering that ultimately consumes her. The artists in this exhibit all give attention to the hidden depths and darker desires of feminine sexuality. […] Sarah Slappey’s paintings of entwined limbs tangle and untangle in a forest of flesh; one part begins just as the other ends, forming an endless loop.’


ELLA FREARS poet

Ella Frears is a poet and visual artist based in London. She’s had work published in the LRB, Ambit, Poetry London, and currently has poems on show at Tate St Ives. Her first collection is Shine, Darling (Offord Road Books 2020).

SARAH SLAPPEY artist

Sarah Slappey (b. 1984, Columbia, South Carolina) is a painter based in Brooklyn. Slappey graduated from Wake Forest University in 2006 and completed her MFA from Hunter College in 2016. In 2015, she was awarded a Kossak Painting Grant and a Hunter MFA award in Painting. Slappey has exhibited at Crush Curatorial, New York, NY; START Gallery, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC and George Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. 

Image credits: courtesy the artist and Sargent’s Daughters, NY. Photograph by Nicholas Knight.