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.


The naturalist

by Elizabeth Trew

He kneels among fossils
with his small brush and careful trowel,

sifts animal bones from plants and pollens
lodged in layers of earth, finds
the skull of a dog-bear
the sabre tooth of a cat
the neckbone of a sivathere,
beasts who browsed the soft leaves
of rainforests and marshes
their remains riverborne to a primal sea.

He digs to measure the weight of our world,
measures the depth of heat and ice
to fathom the strangeness of mineral earth.
On his small plot I find tiny bones:
the skull of a vlei rat
leg bones of toads
the teeth of many mice.

He tells me to dig deep and look
for the shape and nature of things.