About Face

Poets Anonymous were invited by the Croydon Clocktower to the About Face exhibition, held between 12 October 2002 and 19 January 2003, to write poems inspired by the exhibits. Some of the poems were displayed with the exhibits, there was a poetry reading held in the gallery and a pamphlet of poems and line drawings was published, a few of which are below.

The line drawings are by John Richards. The drawings below are:

Head-strong - a bronze by Laurence Edwards, 2001
Replica of a bust of Elizabeth Pepys - plastercast by an artist unknown after John Bushnell, 1970s
Man and Child - ceramic by Sean Henry, 2001
The Vicar and His Sister - papier mâché and wire by Peter Rush, 1985-86


There's a man on my head, building himself
within a scaffold, using my skull,
my flesh and myself, as his foundation.
He's driven stakes right through my brain,
two more in my cheeks, and at the base
of my cranium. He's everything
that I cannot be. He whispers to me,
but I cannot see him. His feet stamp
on my stretched skin. Once I was strong;
now he's sucking out my energy fields.
A warrior, he throws sharpened spears
to cut in deep. He likes to eat
his enemy's brains. When I lose
my consciousness, then he will take
my identity. But I don't mind now.
Already I'm dancing on top of this head,
re-building myself&ldots;

Eamer O'Keeffe


Elizabeth Pepys: 1640 - 10 November 1669
after a marble attributed to John Bushnell

I know he will portray me
With a look of surprise
That is how life used me
How my marriage used me.

Coming on my husband & the maid
coming on my husband & the next maid
& the next
surprising them
& Mrs Bagwell
& each time I was surprised
believing him
that that one was the last
then this & this
& Mrs Lane

I should have learnt

Now as the artist sketches from the life
& I must hold still a long afternoon,
wondering where my husband is,
I know he draws
my naivety
my trust & its betrayal -
a minor Gorgon
turning hurt to stone

Peter L.Evans

Man and Baby

Madonna and Child, this is not.
Straight lines and angles, baby grasped
by its groin and leg, Man stands stiffly,
holding this baby (whose face he can't see)
in a one-armed grip, his other arm hangs
away from himself. This man is tense.
He's posing for this. The child's a thing,
a prop, an object. Man is asking
"Where do you want me to put this ?
I've done my stint - I've carried this kid
for half an hour, and I want to go down
to the pub now. See how patient I am !
Oh, how long more do I have to stand still

The baby's remarkably calm, with a slightly
stunned expression. Perhaps it's accustomed
to being grabbed by Dad ? determined
to do his bit. (He hasn't an inkling
what that really means). Give the man a nappy,
and see if he can manipulate
babygro, baby, nappy and pins,
with just one arm, and face to face!

Eamer O'Keeffe

Baby and Man

I wish he wouldn't grab me that way,
it makes me sore. If I stay very still,
it's not too painful. I hope that he never
changes my nappy. The safety pins
would be pinned to my flesh. I don't cry much.
I feel sorry for him. I bet his dad
didn't even do this. I owe it to Mum
to give him a chance. He calls himself
a New Man. But he doesn't like faces
very much (he rarely sees mine).
Just wait until I can talk; my first words
will be "Dad, get lost, go down to the pub
and prop it up. Mum and I can manage
quite well on our own". That's if I survive
his man-handling, to become a grown-up.
And I'm telling you - No child of mine
will have to put up with such a facade.
An absent dad would be better than this.

Eamer O'Keeffe



Miss Blandford

Ladies act with decorum, you were told
Countless times. Still within your slight
Frame there exists, the rebellious girl
Of manifold, juvenile escapades.

Even your daredevil brother, has been
Tamed into respectability, by the church.
The colourful handkerchief adding that
Touch of defiance, to staid conformity.

Disciplined through numerous years;
Now you can defy your dead peers,
Enjoying the peace that brings you
The freedom, to be old and eccentric.

Who cares if you only wear one
Earring; that your jumper is grubby;
You are comfortable within yourself,
Your friends, the birds don't complain.

You sit in companionable silence
With your clerical brother, but your eyes
Are never still, the arthritic hands
Wait, like the rest of your body, as you

Peer so intently at the far horizon;
In an instant you will snatch your
Binoculars to your eyes, for that
Quick sight of a feathered friend.

'Afternoon tea', the vicar suggests,
Politeness prevails, except, for that
Last, longing scan of the sky line.

Jean Wearn Wallace

The Vicar And His Sister

The Vicar and his sister
sitting on the garden bench,
he's dwelling on his sermon,
she needs her thirst to quench.
But her feet are tired with standing
so she stays just a little longer,
lifting her face to the sunlight
until she feels a trifle stronger.
Her brother is quite saintly
but alas, domestic he is not
he won't think to put the kettle on
or make tea in the teapot.
The Vicar and his sister
are resting on the garden seat,
he thinks it should be teatime
how she longs for him to get it for a treat!

Maisie Dance



Copyright of everything on this web site remains with the individual poets and artists