It is thirty six years ago, and I am with her in the garden,
where July is a picnic of egg sandwiches, cress-stippled,
the fuzzy down of peaches, acid-yellow tang of lemonade.
Her fingers have the delicacy of dancers
as she deftly mixes paint on a palette blue as the sky -
blobs of acrylics bright as sweet shop candy.
Summer is a sizzling colour wheel, spinning in its heat hues -
cadmium orange, pyrrole red, gold ochre -
those fever flames that blaze across her page.
My small world is warmed by the sun in her smile.
Russian vine stitches a delicate doily over the shed roof.
The heat-glazed garden shimmers and buzzes.
There is a twilight world under sweet clusterings of lilacs:
a cool shock of shade, pendulous-legged black flies
hovering in the murky mauve.
China white stars of jasmine light my way.
Please keep me close. Let me stay.
It is twenty six years ago, a morning of mourning,
and the notes of the dead bells toll
as, mist-muffled, they roll
through November's sleet streets.
I close my eyes and the sun in her smile parts the clouds.
Sober-suited people crush and cluster in pews;
row upon row of perylene black, winter-pale faces titanium white.
Stained glass windows filter and warm the ash-grey light
until her coffin is a vibrant palette of rainbows.
There are stories - lots of stories - anecdotes,
a crimson-backed journal she wrote,
a painting she painted, coffin-propped,
a poetry reading - one of her own -
Tapestry is a wondrous thing, in it the lovely colours sing. . .
Creamed rice-colour roses heap sweet
on her stone - a slate plate serving up a dead name -
and carnations splash cadmium scarlet
like blood throbbing from the gash of grief's raw wound.
It is now, and I am alone, taking a short cut home
through evening's rich palette.
Elegiac elms shed viridian tears,
and the sky is a burnt sienna explosion.
October's umber seeps into November's sepia tones.
My mind is coloured with her and then.
I hold a small cameo box that held
the colourful spill of her pills: kaleidoscope planets
orbiting my loneliness, spinning off into nothingness. . .
Dark figures fill the park: silhouettes, shadows
following me home; spirits stepped from her portraits,
faces pushed down into coat collars, crinkled with frowns.
Paint-pinned people in their primaries and pastels,
on canvas, under glass; stopped heartbeats of the past.
Trapped moments on paper and boards.
I close my eyes and see the sun in her smile,
recall how, since her passing, life has become a free fall,
a parapet leap without parachute.
And the smudged charcoal lines of memory
are beginning to blur, fading like her watercolours. . .
in memory of my grandmother