Large Canvases

Unless rain. Campus always spotted
with students
on the lawn in solitude or small groups.
I’d walk
to the art department, a low-lying brick building.
The usual vague joy or dread
rising, not knowing
what problems I’d face before the canvas,
human sized. The welcome smell of turpentine
primed the hours ahead.
I loved that poison. Toxic anticipation.
In my corner, on a rolling shelf, a huge glass palette
the size of a table,
dried paint layered in colorful scabs,
an archeology of wounds of the current painting,
brushes thrusting
hard-end out of a mayo jar of turpentine, real turpentine—
not cheap mineral spirits for house painting,
nor the nontoxic
citrus solvent of motherhood, stealing minutes
from children—
Long hair bristle brushes gooey
with the grey sludge of sunken oil paint.
Too lazy or cool to clean them every day or week.
Leaving brushes in that swamp—
a good way to warp or kill expensive hog bristle.
Fascinated with pseudo self portraits,
I painted many women
who vaguely looked like me with better breasts, standing
in various depths of murky red seas,
lost in vast space,
knee-deep in the horizon, crucified, Tao- or Shiva-bound,
avoiding the gaze or turning
from various men. Decades of living the paintings inside,
I took myself out of that space to
drag huge swathes
of juicy blues, whites and creamy yellows over
still large canvases—that much hadn’t changed—
to recreate clouds from above or below,
blue punctuated by sun or moon.
Now elemental light. The between in here.
As if the wooden handle is a conduit routing sky,
lit spheres and space from the body.
I disappear.

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