Painting in the Tropics, 2009

This poem won Second place in 2-Day Poem Contest 2009

No fish, this time, no fish.

Find a fresh canvas and rack it up. Then paint, you old fool, paint.


Time edges forward, slow bead on bead.

He's all brute force and need, like a novice,

Blind to each gradation.


Understudies in the parlour, lauded exhibitions –

Who'd expect this scene? Dirty palette

the stump of his shaking arm,

he wounds the cadmium, dulls the emerald green.


Somewhere he offended, and imagery

Once effervescent

stiffened on the floor.

Now loud-leafed plants reach through the window,

rubbernecking at the gore:

kumquat viscera, stopping up the sink,

and half-hearted daubs of paint, half-squeezed tubes of ink.


The canvas leers, a gap-toothed freak in the foliage of unwashed rooms.

Old master with the noxious breath still looms,

Whispering, Let go, be agile, improvise!

Such lies. He takes a pull and tells himself,

Relax, old man, just dial it in.


Something flits by. Was it a fin? No matter.

The quagmire shifts, he flexes the vermilion

and his brush finds solid ground.


Now cobalt, tempered, for they are thrashing.

Titanium buff for the glint of eyes,

And the gills, viridian, gasping.