Daddy’s Helper

by Annette Snyckers

Your hands on wood,
(tongue between your lips)
and I — only a girl, not the son
who should be helping —
I sat and watched,
sometimes was allowed
to hold the end of the measuring tape –
I could not take my eyes off your hands,
how they caressed the wood,
held the paintbrush, concentration
furrowed on your forehead.

Because you believed
women’s hands should not
handle implements,
tools and paintbrushes
(we would mess it up),
you never taught me.
I watched, and learned
to use my small hands
only later, when they grew
into a woman’s hands,
my eyes to measure things
to within half a millimetre,
to plumb as straight and true
as a level.

I paint in translucent layers
on canvas
the way you painted
walls and cupboards;
my hands get dirty
and I inhale, thrilled,
the smell of turpentine.
I have disobeyed you –

but I know that now,
you would not be angry.

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The artist’s house

by Elizabeth Trew

In his naturalist hands his talisman –
a bee trapped in amber, tears
of the sun god Apollo.

In his frames he prints inky tadpoles,
fixes dragonfly wings to watercolours.
Into the first floor he ferries
fallen leaves found in shadowy underbrush,
patterns spring leaves like hands
against rubbled cities.
He singes and seals fallen leaf tones
onto parchment, murals of burnt oaks,
olives, charcoals, plastering his walls
with guttering nutmegs and cold copper leaves.

The apprentice upstairs opens tins –
powdered acrylics, intense coloured lights.
Into her pollens she mixes and stirs, adds
the sky’s tones and borrows from the master downstairs
a handful of charcoals, a few yellow tears.

Onto her walls she maps her city,
into her cauldron dips wide-shouldered brushes
the brilliance of reds, purples, blues.
Windows and doors become colour slabs
boiling light.
Black eyes of her flower heads
scatter eyelids.

She pours out her city’s florescence
spilling through skylight, cascading downstairs,
launching her scripts on his coppery bed.

Abstention

by Annette Snyckers

I miss
the smell of paint,
of turpentine,
fat blobs of colour
squeezed from tubes
with exotic names,
Indigo, French Ultramarine,
Alizarin Crimson, Carmine,
Cerulean Blue, Scarlet Lake,
Indian Yellow, Venetian Red,
their buttery texture
smeared on the palette,
the dipping of the brush,
the slight give of the canvas,
the wetness of it,
the squishiness of it,
putting my finger in it,
and with the slightest touch
softening a line,
standing back for appraisal,
having stains on my face
and rubbing my hands on a rag,
the concentration,
the hallelujah.

It has been too long.