You watch the night sweeping westwards
For those lost
Beyond the horizon,
Hoping sleep will come,
You rise and shine into a spotless suit
That no longer suits you,
A business face that almost sees you
Through the business,
You wrestle through migraine
You dream past clock-watched
And the first evening star heralds
Hope of some familiar breeze, beckoning
You watch the night sweeping westwards
For those lost
Beyond the horizon,
Hoping sleep will come.
Soul Man started four years ago, as an unfinished horizon, since then the painting has gained spirit in time and energy. Its inspiration (and aspiration) was from the outset to connect with other painters / dreamers who dream, or are attempting to realise their dreams, in paintings. Are we not all dreamers and painters?
In reflection, a painting is like a mirror, revealing both the sacred and the profane, the spiritual and the materialistic, within ourselves. Maybe it restores us? I ask myself what good is a painting if it doesn’t return us to a quiet and authentic place in the world, that allows us to breath, away from trivialities that suffocate our being.
So I’ve decide to take stock, to take a “breather”, sensing within that everything must end. Nothing goes on for ever. And yet, nothing is forever lost. A paradox of life and death perhaps. More important is a sense of gratitude. I thank you dearly, for supporting me in this vision and for those who offered guidance and intuition from the beginning. Thank you.
In remembrance and honour of Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger
A selection of poems from A Harvest of Blossoms is here, permission granted for educational purposes only.
Underneath the stars an old woman knits
She has passed beyond need or mourning
She neither frowns nor smiles, nor asks why?
She is re-working our fate. She is re-making history
She is patterning our future. She is embroidering
Our destiny. We shall hear her across the river
We wear every garment she threads
Each evening we wash them. And by night
Hang them out. They dry under the stars
Swathed in her image, we lie naked till morning
This piece reminds me of Richard, a man with severe learning disabilities, with Autism who used to become suddenly and unpredictably violent towards himself and others for no apparent cause.
I first met Richard in a locked mental health clinic in 2007 and everyone involved in his care, including nurses, took great steps to avoid him whenever he paced the ward looking for attention. I felt very intimidate by him too, he was a large man and clearly an angry man, more so when his mother came to see him.
The nurses heavily sedated Richard for it was seen as the only means to protect this man from seriously harming someone. However the sedation only slowed him down but didn’t touch the cause of his anger. His inner pain. He grabbed others by the wrist and squeeze so tight they would lose feelings in the fingers.
One afternoon visiting the ward, Richard grabbed me. He wanted something from me and I didn’t know what. Richard led me to a locked store cupboard and with his eyes stared into the cupboard, there was something in there he remembered or believe was kept there. I opened the door and inside was some old books, catalogues, and a few boxes.
At first I thought Richard wanted to look at the magazines, and I showed him a few to illicit his interest, but his grip became stronger, he was getting angrier and I more afraid. I pull out boxes in haste and opened them. Inside was paint bottles, some never been opened. Intuition and adrenaline kicked in. I opened the bottle and poured some paint into his free hand. He then let go of my arm and rubbed his hands together and smiled.
Richard liked the texture, smell, colour and began to paint on the adjacent wall, using his hands as palette and fingers as a brush. For a few minutes I waited and watched Richard wipe different colours on to the wall. He held my hand lightly as if to invite me into his world. I took up the paints and did likewise.
Our mutual brush strokes, finger strokes were intermingled with smiles and glances of approval from Richard. He laughed when my sweeping lines overlapped his. He showed tremendous patience with me too when I took a step back, but each time he beckoned me back to continue with the piece, so onwards we went together. This went on for about half an hour. Then he suddenly stopped painting and walked off to his bedroom. He had finished with the painting.
I stood before the painting transfixed with the mural of colour we had made. One of the other patients commented that it was the longest they had seen Richard become engrossed by something. A nurse came out a said jokingly, “I suppose that’s what you call art therapy”. I paused and said “I call it conversation… it feels like we’ve had a conversation”
Richard’s Autism meant that he couldn’t communicate his thoughts in any other language than paintings. Recognisable by himself as to what it meant, recognisable by me as to what it did. It changed the way I related to Richard, to myself, to the nature of self, the nature of communication and how Richard, like all people, needed to share what was on his mind. A mind full of colour.
There are no dead, they walk the air we breath,
they speak through the tomes of ashes in their mouths.
Though numbed by passing and surpassing fear
and bound to being on this trembling ground
I stand on all the while you spin me round
the axis of a passion or a year –
giddied I listen, having no choice but hear
your song composed of noteless silent sound
as if unhemmed, and your whole nature crowned
in hints caught up in waves – now blurred, now near.
the lapping waters absolves
my deepest fears
running my fingers through your body
over the waters, shimmering, a face
I’ve half thought yours appears to smile and call,
and back I call, Time – come – I am the space
you long to lodge in and take over all
the darkest corners from and light in grace
unsure if still I stumble, rise, or fall.
We stayed at home, and tried to go on working, charged with destiny.
We wore old traditional habits, maintained hope, sweated at the foundry
We followed paternal patterns, our shuttered or buried minds in custom and duty.
We worked for little or nothing, our bond for this passion play was enough reward.
We lived and died but our union as poets, generation to generation, was eternal.
I will speak. Yes I will. I will not, cannot be silenced. I am responsible for this seed landed here called Human
To root it through and through me till every pore breathes. That it break the sheen on the stuff of things.
That it scratch this varnished light a little. To trace what lies beneath it. That what be called gross or foul.
Be charged with clearer breath. For blood, sweat, salt are particles of radiance. And shall be known by their true names
And for what they really are. But how perfection leaks from cracks in the mosaic bowl of now. And how time
Drips constant through the porous jar of presence. And how you and I may realised each other as we fit the shards together.
Yes I will speak. I must. And of these things too. This plant that grows from our speech in joy here I name: Communion
the open flimsy curtain,
against which the frame
of the sash window
At the foot of our bed
where this afternoon
I lie, sleepy reading
a new verse
It pulls me under
rocks my body gently
in slumbers arms
of fragrant kisses
As brilliantly a pair
of thrushes peck
nonchalantly and then
scatter against the sky