Saturday, August 08, 2009

Painting Grandma 090808

Painting Grandma 090808

Bean tendrils curl like memories, twisting from the tip
of my brush onto the canvas before me.   Clipped crookedly
to the easel, small, bent and dark, an old sepia photo
calls memories of my grandmother into this distant studio.
To please and satisfy the whims of her only granddaughter,
she let skin form on the farina they way I liked it, brewed me
strong coffee at an age my parents called "tender" and "too young,"
sweetened it with cream, sugar and chocolate, warmed me
on winter afternoons with hugs and homemade soup, baked
cookies for me with sweet surprises hidden inside.  And her garden
I remember, and her in it. As she bent to pluck peas or pull weeds,
rolls of her flesh and stocking tops showed below the hems
of her slips and skirts.  I loved the neat perfection of that garden
with its black, glittery soil, and its bounty that filled her pots
and pans, her table, and our bellies.

The dark little photo invades my painting.  Brushed in first,
tumbles of white cotton candy ride brown, flat-bottomed barges
across a brown sea of sky.  I borrowed them from the photo,
too resonant in brown to paint in blue.  Tall beans wind
around rows of poles and pile one onto the next over mounds
of cloud, leaves sepia brown on the bottoms and greening
gradually toward the top.  I paint the photo's dark woman
secure between the rows, round as a snowman in this unlikely
season.  She wears a bib apron, pink with red flowers
over a grizzled blue gingham housedress.  I paint her square face
a tea-stained brown, leathery and wrinkled
as shed layers of sycamore bark. 

As the old photo revives my memories, Grandma
becomes the brightest point in the painting. 
Her grey braids wrap thin around her head and she reaches
heavy brown arms to pluck beans from the plants I paint
before her.  The tips of their leave overlap her reproachful face.
I remember the smile that stern face always turned toward me
and I smile in return toward the small scowl I paint on her lips
and forehead.   "Don't," she warms my father, "Point that camera
at me." Through the shining, iridescent lens in my father's hands,
through more than fifty years of silence, my grandmother cannot see
the granddaughter who with a brush traces the sun-edged clouds,
suggests the light in her eyes, and defines her bean-burgeoning
apron, nor see, beyond me, the great granddaughters and great,
great granddaughters who across five generations touch
her still-damp face with their smiles.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
For Nicolina Ciaranello

⇑This line and everything below ⇓ this line are not part of this poem, please ignore.
090808-1648-3i(11), 090721-0856-2, 1st 090719 on back of SMM Ms in pen in car
send this to Maria Mazzotti Gillan (or hand deliver?) for Patterson Review
fresh and green, pot, pan to the easel, small, faded and bent at the edges. Forgotten , dreams creep into my painting, a third thing, not the memories trace, or the photo, but an awkward merging. To visage enhanced bending to

No comments: