Sunday, November 28, 2010


that turpentine stench first
filled my nostrils very young. she
stood with an apron in the laundry
room; pausing, standing back, knitting her brow

each of us sitting for at least
one portrait. she tried water,
then charcoal, but really loved
oil. burnt umber, prussian blue, sap green

viridian. she said, we try not to use too much
black or white. those colors don't really
exist in the world. try to show the hues using
different colors; it's more interesting and true

she was jealous of those pastes.
watching pbs, sucking her teeth: that's
an expensive color! so much that
christmas memories are filled

with small boxes holding tubes
cadmium yellow, light; van dyck brown; payne's gray
each year, more tubes and tubes
it felt like she never had enough.

in my house, over the piano she made me keep playing as a child
hangs her last oil
the boldest, most dynamic piece of landscape
she'd ever painted

subtle, muted, green mixed with violet, the trees almost
mourn with me, the loss of their maker
when we cleaned out her things
a whole room filled with easels

sketchbooks, unused yarn, fabric scraps, calligraphy brushes
ink stones, rice paper, photographs
and a green tackle box filled with
paint tubes

no one else wanted the supplies
so i took them. sullen.
i don't know how to paint with oils
i've kept them in this house for almost nine years

meanwhile, i take a job in an art department
where every other person is a painter
longing for more supplies
i remain jealous of those tubes just like her

but then, three weeks ago my not-supervisor's
sister drops dead suddenly
no one knows why
she flies across the country

to tend to body and mind
arrives at work three days later
red-eyed with smokey hair, says:
where else am i going to go?

not-supervisor is a painter
a very successful one, until life happened
and she had to support kids; family
she specializes in a certain symmetry; she's not

picky about paint. but she uses
a lot of it
today, i sort through my work space
find that green tackle box

smelling of the turpentine that
wafts through laundry room memories
i will never sit a portrait for mom again.
so i find a clean bag

place each paint tube in it
write down the name of each color
wrap them up, nice and neat
for transport in the morning

i hope not-supervisor will use every one
to remember her sister
so i can let go of my mother
and more things can be made

again, and again, and again.


Coach Boots said...
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