phantom child, unearthly white
fallen in the midst of worldly cries 
grievous composition bound by dis-ease
inevitable departure

famine of 1890

predictable fault in judgement
arrival of maternal instinct
the shape of a woman
appearing to relieve

plants the kiss of death instead 

* Ekphrastic poem in response to Homeless, 1890, by Thomas Benjamin Kennington

The painting speaks of destitution and impoverishment amongst women and children in 1890s London. It depicts a widow supporting a young boy’s body who is close to death. However, the poem frames the female subject as aiding the boy by relieving him of life, as she plants the ‘kiss of death', upon his forehead. This alternative reading of the painting portrays women, not as nurturing or maternal, as society deems them to be, instead playing the role by performing a mercy killing.

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