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The bra I took off at 4:45 through the sleeve of my dress and put down somewhere I find on my grandmother's hutch in the kitchen, incongruous, surrounded by jars of jam: yellow plum, blackberry-merlot, and a half-finished painting of peonies that don't resemble peonies, more like an enormous hydrangea. I've learned it's very hard to see what you're actually seeing, much less to reproduce it. My paints are asleep in their wheeled cart, four canvasses gessoed and ready for me to take up a brush, but I haven't. Oh, well. Now, the sky is almost completely devoid of color, just the last pale grayish-peach as sunset slides into home plate for the night, almost the color of this once-ecru-but-washed- too-often underwire I'm dropping into the trash so I don't turn into my mother, whose underwear got replaced only when it fell off her. Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned that, but it's a sorry world that revolves on an axis of secrets. I say, spit them out. And for me, who lives for color, that dingy thing had become kind of a nightmare. I used a baseball analogy there in honor of my painting teacher, Phil, who loved the Giants. I'm a Red Sox fan, myself. Phil would have said that I could turn one hydrangea back into seven peonies if I felt like trying, in under an hour, he was smart that way, knew who to console and who'd respond to a dare. Yesterday, he died. If I could paint him back into life and health I'd do it. More alizarin crimson in the flesh tones of his face instead of cadmium yellow. We spent a lot of time on flesh, a lot of time on water, the Yuba River's myriad blues...ochre and viridian. Granite. Shade and sunlight. He told me once to go outside and watch the clouds instead of imagining them, so I did. Blew my mind. A storm was rolling in: green and gold, nearly black, five entirely different purples. He was like that: try it, see for yourself, you have my permission to screw up. Which I echo all the time to younger writers and to the lined face in the mirror that is not my mother's, the one that doesn't need more crimson yet: please, go wild and make a mess. You will learn so much that's valuable.
Molly Fisk’s many books include The More Difficult Beauty (Hip Pocket Press, 2010).
Copyright 2021 Molly Fisk