Image-ine Poetry: “Hot Sky” by Lisa Hess Hesselgrave

Writing poetry from art ignites creativity and helps you become a better writer. Join Maureen Doallas in this Image-ine exercise based on “Hot Sky,” a painting by Lisa Hess Hesselgrave.


Closing In

The wild closes in
the moment the sun
idles in its profusion

of mauves and reds.
With the blush of air,
I harbor blue to slow

the progress of time
that thickens roots
and deepens the char

of lost afternoons.
I trip over the orange
that tricks the moon

to appear a too-soon
omen of blurred visions
to come, tongue lolling

in heat-fed sleep. Dark
carries its own night
dreams. How I see

the sea become a field
of frost-licked snow,
sky the arms holding it

back from my mouth
athirst in fear. I mean
to find my own way out.


Write a poem of your own based on Lisa’s image “Hot Sky” or choose a line from Maureen’s poem as a starting place. Post on your blog and link to us (we love that), or just drop your poems here in the comment box.

This is the second in a series of Image-ine Poetry posts based on Lisa Hess Hesselgrave‘s paintings.


See the first Image-ine Poetry post in this series.

See the second Image-ine Poetry post in this series.

See the third Image-ine Poetry post in this series.

See the fourth Image-ine Poetry post in this series.

Explore other Image-ine Poetry exercises.

Painting: “Hot Sky” (oil on canvas) by Lisa Hess Hesselgrave. Used with permission. Poem by Maureen Doallas, author of Neruda’s Memoirs: Poems.


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  1. says


    The Messenger
    Rooted in rock
    Grounded in earth’s stone-cold soil

    Waved me down
    Brought my harried paces to a frigid stop
    Whispered, a barely audible breathy
    A call to notice
    What was barely there
    Planted in a stripped and naked tree

    Penned against an ombre sky
    By arms, skeletal wild and free
    As if dipped in inkwell
    With a cryptic message just for me

    Set against a canvas, wild ablaze

    One day I will tell what I found there
    Translate what the willows said to me
    Pen in hand
    Interpret what those hieroglyphics
    Through the fragile branches of
    That tree

    One day
    I’ll tell the story
    Of the wild and naked tree.

    • says

      I love how you have taken time with both painting and poem to create your own work, with the “wild” showing up in the last line of your poem, Elizabeth, just as it did in Maureen’s.

      The painting gave you pause; your poem gives me pause, as well, as I consider what the untold story might be–the story you will tell one day, even as you tell the beginning here.

    • says

      I love that you leave the discernment of meaning open, Elizabeth, with your excellent concluding stanza. Some vivid imagery, too. The poem has a mythic and mysterious feeling.

      Thank you for contributing!

    • says

      Elizabeth, bless these messengers, the tree and its poet. I liked the way the two one word lines were “Halt” and “Said.” The two actions by the poet and the tree that made the rest possible. I too look forward to the sequel.

  2. says

    Truly inspiring Maureen! Your piece infuses the painting with the possibilities of poetry. I am especially fond of “the progress of time/that thickens roots/and deepens the char/of lost afternoons.” What an amazing image!

  3. says

    Before the rain

    A carmine sky inclined
    itself against the bulk
    of night while you slept.

    Speckled doves coo
    on clutched wires,
    as though the prairie
    were a marionette,
    staged in a tented fete,
    the footlights of morning
    kindled over the horizon.

    From an updraft a dry tongue
    screams on a hyphen of wings
    spread over the rising wind.

    The cactus with its bruised pears
    and cloistered blooms
    pricks at the rivers
    raging in the air
    behind the shifting
    curtain of coming day,
    prepared in silence,
    for the moment not yet here,
    from gathered oceans,
    breath and swill,
    utterance and tear.

  4. says


    In a frozen land
    where temps dip
    below nothing,
    winds whip snow
    across roads to
    whirl into ditches
    in wavy dunes,

    it’s a comfort
    to know that

    the sky is hot
    with flaming clouds
    and burning colors,
    heat waves rise
    from soft asphalt
    while the natives
    and tourists sweat.


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