My friends and I who run Poets’ Corner Folkestone had the great pleasure of collaborating with The Woodshed Gallery during Open Quarter this month. Amanda Wood and Laura Froude had an exhibition called ‘Drawn From Life and Other Stories’, and they invited me to read something at their opening. This is it.
Writing From Life
‘Say a new word’-
I look at the sea and write
Without watching the page
Ears closed to the caws of birds.
I write with my left hand
I come to the end of the paper
And write in the sand
I look at the word
before it is washed away
But I cannot read it
The things invisible to mortal sight
(Those things we try to name but cannot see)
We look for in the evening light
Or through the blossom on the cherry tree
The ink that scratched the sand has washed away
(And what we cannot see we cannot name)
The way she is naked in the cold church hall
Her side by the electric heater turning red
The other side still underdone and pale
She is still but you try to capture her in flight
The way she is when she drives you to her home
Dressed in jeans now and a stripy sailor top
The way she is naked with you
She’s only an ordinary person I suppose
The model in the Methodist Church Hall
Extraordinary, unique, of course; but ordinary still.
But she doesn’t look like other things at all-
I’ve painted animals, still lives, landscapes and the sea;
And the shape of her bones, the folds of her skin,
The hair on her body, her uneven nipples,
Eyes, nose, lips, the millimetres that rescue her from beauty,
She doesn’t care how I draw or paint her-
Charcoal markings on white paper;
So what? She earns her fifteen quid an hour;
Every little helps , but still…
I manipulate her image on my laptop
I can make her limbs move, make her fatter,
Thinner, lift things that have fallen, shift
Millimetres to adjust her facial features
Until she resembles Botticelli’s Venus;
Perfect in every detail, every line.
But the one thing that I cannot do is lift
Her eyes and make them look up into mine.
Once I wouldn’t look so close-
The angle of her shoulder
The same as the peak of the sheet
That hides one breast;
The stretch marks and the puckered flesh
A world away from young desire;
The mischief of her clavicles-
Drawn by life and
Hung by it.
Words like lissome, pert and comely,
Nubile, statuesque, attract me.
She is none of these and glumly
I accept her stark reality.