Touched by Brushstrokes
Sylvia Jane Eliot, elderly poet, is inclined toward solitude and unembarrassed happiness. "Solitude and unembarrassed happiness," she says to her cat. "A summation of the self." The brevity satisfies her, and the alliteration. She looks again at the painting. Bobby Beausoleil's Hermit's Retreat. She has been living in the artist's tiny painted house. It is she who started the fire in the wood stove, she who keeps it going. Does he know? When the sun begins to set, she lights the kerosene lamps — all of them. The place glows, casts a double shine on the textured receptive body of water. She thinks it's a lake, level, rippled, reflecting.
The moon is up,
the sun is down,
and I am all alone.
The water glows,
the forest flows,
the brushstrokes touch my bone.
She suspects this is doggerel, but what is she to make of the scene, the artist's lovely depiction, essence of innocence? She knows about the crime he committed, his four-plus decades of incarceration, his esoteric spiritual interests, his musical efforts. And his art, much of it too strange for her.
But here is a careful, prayerful painting. Moon-shine and house-shine over lake. Parallel light lines, in the absolute. Hers.
She's quite certain Mr. Beausoleil won't mind that she has taken possession. He'll have moved on to whatever he's painting today. When she gets up from her desk, disinclined to close the computer whose screen holds the tiny house where her soul has gone, she thinks only that soon she might be too old for such a life, flying off into beauty like this, her bones blissfully alone, touched by brushstrokes. Too old, and in one of those places for "care."
She laughs. Truly, she doesn't mind either prospect. "All part of the circle of experience," she tells the cat, who ignores her.
"Or perhaps I lack the necessary imagination." The cat looks up, stares.
No matter how she turns her mind to thoughts of extreme old age and death, no matter how often she visits her friend Emma, centenarian, bed-ridden, dependent, and not far from the end, Sylvia Jane cannot summon the dread so many of her compatriots express. And she certainly doesn't mind that the artist was a murderer.
"Such a long time ago, after all." The cat meows.
She passes her bedroom door, sees the unmade bed. "Oh my. Forgotten again, poor bed, and it's almost noon." The cat finds a dust bunny, sends it scuttling, chases it. His poet owner watches and smiles, makes the bed, hangs her flung nightgown on a hook in the closet, and goes to the kitchen. She heats a can of soup, puts crackers on a plate. She'll read while she eats.
"Blake today, wasn't that the plan?" The cat flings a phantom mouse into the air.
The Four Zoas. A compelling monster of a poem. She's gotten to the Ninth Night once again, is almost at the redemptive end where innocence follows the terrors, rather like the painting, now that she thinks about it. Hermit's Retreat. Such an inviting little lakeside place, spruce trees and mountain peaks for neighbors. She'd thrive there — until the need for groceries arose. Must be miles and miles to the nearest town.
The cat has fallen asleep, a soft gray fur-ball curled into the indigo of his tattered chair, sunlight from the window slanting over him. If she were a painter --
She thinks of her good luck. Among other things, she has lived into the computer age with its abundance of beautifully lit art, more than she'll ever need. Gratitude surges, a brief happy storm of it.
But she's hungry. She sits to soup and crackers and Blake. She does cherish her solitude. Solitude plus cat, that is. And in town, which is only practical. It's possible she'll take another run at Mr. Beausoleil's shamelessly enchanting painting this afternoon, try for a more respectable poem, after her nap.
Ah, yes. After her nap.
Editor's note: The author is responding to a painting featured in an Ekphrastic Review interview with the artist. Bobby Beausoleil paints from prison and shared his thoughts with contributor Anthony Stechyson here.
Shirley Glubka is a retired psychotherapist, the author of three poetry collections, a mixed genre collection, and two novels. The Bright Logic of Wilma Schuh (novel, Blade of Grass Press, 2017) is her latest. Shirley lives in Prospect, Maine with her spouse, Virginia Holmes. Website: http://shirleyglubka.weebly.com/ Online poetry at The Ekphrastic Review here; at 2River View here; at The Ghazal Page here; and at Unlost Journal here.
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