Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
Long Day Painting By Myself Down By The Lake
Long day painting by myself down by the lake
where I used to paint with you many years ago,
and now your absence haunts my solitude
as I grey my greens with cool alizarin red
and though the trees and the water are the same
it's a much eerier world just to know once
you who were here with me, are utterly gone,
and what has carried on without you, though
I'm affably intimate with its creative characteristics
is wholly estranged from the name I'll write on this painting.
As if an era in art had passed. Dreams and assumptions,
things you take for granted because in living them
you sometimes must, like love and oxygen,
and the presumption of life going on between us,
for the most part unplanned,
but a commingling of waters nevertheless,
a sharing in the other's quiet amazement
that the other exists as they are in your mindscape at all.
A heron rises from the cattails in the shallows.
A fish jumps at a dragonfly on the tip of a sword
of the wild irises in a muddle of mystic indigo
and a sulphur butterfly struggles in the thick pthalo blue
of the sky I slashed in with my painting knife
as if I were grouting the canvas like a mason
to lay a fieldstone wall that wouldn't keep the birds out
that have learned to ignore me like a scarecrow
in warpaint ghost dancing at an easel
spreading its legs like a doe
come out of the woods
to drink quietly from its own reflection.
Everything seems thriving and deserted.
The waterlilies still clutter the wild rice
like prolific constellations of the frogs
whose singing doesn't sound all that bad after awhile.
I'm a curiosity to the fox
that's been taking a profound interest in my work
all afternoon as if I were some kind of savage impressionist
and it were a cultural savant with a few pointed suggestions.
Two raccoons luxuriating like moss on a femur of oak
behind me, watching me underpaint the lakeshore rocks
like two kids through the wire fence of a construction site.
Events of the day. Transactional armies in the grass,
bees and ruby throated humming birds
enabling the daylilies like pyromaniacs
and soon, the green dragon of the sumac
will burn in the auto de fe of the fall as well.
But you are not here to mention it to
and compared to the quality of the isolation
I once lived here with you in paradise
the beauty of my painting lacks the highlights
and finished details I used to attend to
knowing how they'd shine by the light of your eyes
as an effect of the atmospherics you brought to the scene.
And though everything appears the same,
it's uncanny not to be heading homewards
with the shadows and the crows
as you and I did so many nights
well pleased with what
we laboured for all day in the sun
to a farmhouse full of paintings
whose windows cling to the remaining light
as we did like waterbirds for awhile
around a lake full of constellations
as the Eagle, the Swan and the Lyre,
went down behind the abstract expressions
of the sad geometry of the barn roof
weary of rusting like wavelengths of rippled tin,
not knowing whether it's holding out
against the wind, the rain, the field fires
or still holding something empty
as an urn full of stars
that were scattered like chimney sparks
on one of the coldest nights of my life, in.
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