Posts Tagged ‘painting’

This morning I painted
a wooden marker for your grave—
a slender plank to hold the space
until the stone arrives.
I wanted it to be perfect,
but I am not a painter.
I am a mother painting
a wooden marker
for the grave of her son,
but there is devotion
in the uneven blue coat,
devotion in the crooked silver lettering,
devotion in every brush stroke of white.
In the movie of me,
I watched as the lens zoomed in
on my awkward hands
to show their slow and loyal work.
Then the frame widened
to include the quiet rooms in the house,
widened more to comprise the summer field,
then panned and tilted to the sky
to show the gathering rain.
After the fade to gray,
I was still here, sitting at the table,
paint on my dress,
my life not a movie but my life—
every day the chance to live into it.
I flashed back to sitting
at this same table
where you learned to write your letters,
then learned to write your name.
Fast forwarded through thousands
of family dinners.
Flashed to this morning
as I finished the grave marker,
shaping the letters of your name through tears.
Though a camera couldn’t show it,
I forgave myself
for not being a better painter.
I told myself I did the best I could.
It was hours before the rain began to fall.

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in part a response to Ferlinghetti’s “Instructions to Painters and Poets”



Teach me to paint the dark, the infinite

shades of the infinite dark, the basis of all

the light that is, the origin, the ink bright spark


that leaps from the great black well,

the darkling spring, the raven luck, the mother

from which the big bang sprang, the womb


of dawn, the only cloak measureless enough

to hold everything, everything in its folds.

Teach me to paint the inner midnight,


the moonless rooms, the lavish corners,

the mighty dark inside the fist, the vastness

of limitless space that links


with no effort the everything that is,

the everything that ever was, the everything

that will ever be. Teach me the song of soil,


the song of deep winter, the pure dark song

of the sea. All the dark that’s been terrorized

by light, and all the dark that’s been pushed away


and all the dark that’s been feared,

teach me its valor, its ferocity, its kindness,

its gentleness, its blinding generosity.



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She starts with marigold.
She pours the paint into a cup and selects the fattest brush.
The paint drips all over the floor as she moves toward the canvas.
She doesn’t care about the mess.
She drags huge pulls of marigold onto the blank, stroke after stroke after stroke.
There is no pattern, no purpose, no why.
More paint, she says to no one, more paint!
And she opens the ochre, the navy, the pomegranate, the plum.
She forgets about cups and pours the paint
directly into her hands. Then it’s hurl of paint, smash of paint,
fist and smear and splat of paint. Long slow pinky fingered tease of paint.
Puddles of paint. Great rainbowed pools.
She rolls in the paint and then rolls her body against the walls, the doors,
every inch of the virgin floor.
Every part of her is color now, and there is nothing
she’s not ready to touch.

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To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle.
—Walt Whitman

Balanced against morning frost
I do not see
the great blue heron
wading in the river
so I put it there


Meredith mentions
a student who insists
on painting
into the foreground
a rock


“All she needs is a darker color,”
Meredith says, “and a value
like a triangle
and the canvas
would be full of light”


You do not have
to be talented—even
my three year old girl
knows how to paint
something that makes her smile


It is not a painting,
this life, still
there was a heron here not
long ago, standing in frost
it was so beautiful


Here and not here,
light and dark,
so many years spent
debating the two—this morning
I see it, the river chimed in frost

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