The Double

By Martha Sprackland
10 Jun 2022
Gerhard Richter, I.G., 1993 © Gerhard Richter 2022. Photo: Jon Etter
10 Jun 2022

As part of our ongoing Antiphony series of newly commissioned poetry, a double sonnet in response to Gerhard Richter’s painting titled ‘I.G.’ (1993), one of only ten paintings he made of fellow German artist Isa Genzken.


You’ve shadowed your shadow, followed it from bed
to this blackening dolmen of the boundary with light,
to find yours in frolic with its own tessellating self,
a massive shape, this carbon mother. Now, at midnight,

let free of sleep, you stand before its cavernous yawn
understanding nothing of this cryptic wall from which your face
—alarmed, eager or questioning—is either drawn
or drawn towards, a sliver chipped from deepest oily space.

Who spoke? You rose and came here to divine
the noise made by the darkness. You attend.
Or else it has come to you, this ersatz flash. Your spine
a long straight seam, your tense and turning head

and the surprised void of your unseen face.
You step towards the hallway’s dark arcade.


It has you pinned. The blistering gaze
of this vast dilated pupil with its bald attention
has studied you in a hundred different ways
and now effects a kind of clever traction

so that you will come, come towards, come in,
and already the duplicate of your smooth shoulder
—a sort of negative-self, its blurry twin—
is lifted like a branch of smoke after the smoulder.

How many narrowing doors are there—crude oils
and mirrors, paint heaped on the palette knife
until the living moment walks in through the studio doors
and asks whose marriage is this, whose second life?

You won’t return. This much now you know.
Put on your carnival mask, prepare to go.

Martha Sprackland is a writer, editor and translator from Merseyside. She was co-founder and poetry editor of Cake magazine, assistant poetry editor for Faber & Faber, and one of the founding editors of multilingual arts magazine La Errante. From 2018 to 2021 she worked at Poetry London, first as associate editor, and then as acting poetry editor. She is the editor of independent press Offord Road Books and from late 2021 took up the role of poetry editor with publishing house and production company CHEERIO Publishing. Martha has published two pamphlets, GLASS AS BROKEN GLASS (Rack Press, 2017) and MILK TOOTH (Rough Trade Books, 2018). Martha’s debut collection CITADEL (Pavilion Poetry, 2020) was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award, the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the John Pollard International Poetry Prize.

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