An Onlooker – Janell Ward


An Onlooker

With tilted heads and raised feet –
from a distance, you look happy,
but there is no noise, no laughter.

She presses her ear into your oils but still
there is no sound, no gleeful tapping
of the toes– only the melancholy whirl
of dry breeze in the distance.

She stands back to view you again, and sees
no strings on your guitars, no bars on your mandolin,
but your sunken grins have caught her eye.

Your instruments are incomplete, mimic
her soul. Your frozen stance— solid,
like the white marble lions guarding the Pantheon—
the same way she feels in a large crowd of people.

She is on display too, dried up with waterproof
expectations – from a distance, she looks happy,
but there is no noise, no laughter.

No one leans in to hear that she has no strings.
No one notes the absent flicker of joy reflected
in her eyes. If spectators want to see her dancing, then
from a distance, she will dance.



Inspired by Arlequin et Pierrot by André Derain.

Janell Ward is a freelance, American author. Her publications have been featured in magazines and papers, and she has two published books. Janell graduated with an MFA in Writing from Kingston University in 2016. Ekphrastic poetics was the core theme of her postgraduate dissertation; she enjoys studying the arts and how they relate to differing forms of artistry.

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