This poem from the Meanjin archives was first published in 2014.
If my heart
were a white sheet,
I asked you that morning,
what words your brush
would like to paint?
‘Don’t miss me
when I am gone,’ you wrote.
Was it a premonition
or just a harmless game:
easy to play and forget?
But I miss you;
How could it be otherwise:
the words like kites roam the skies
of my being with you and without:
a dream and its shadow walking side by side.
Paint for me
the word water, I said
you smiled and a fish appeared on the sheet;
fire, I dared you again,
and you painted a row of red lanterns.
it rained in my dream
wetting me and the sheet
must be me, you said, and turned
and I noticed a snake tattooed on your back.
There is a script called Caoshu, you said,
the brush is held firm
and the wrist turns like the neck of geese
swimming in the rice field.
The Kaishu is strict but not harsh, austere but exact:
Like my grandfather
it rarely smiles but when it does
the lines float and the shapes fly.
Teach me Caoshu,
I asked you then and you took me out to dance;
the snow fell and melted
as we traced figures on the ground.
It’s like a dance,
you explained, which like water
seeps through fingers:
to flow is its purpose
to vanish its glorious fate
I have to go;
Don’t, I wanted to say,
but no, you went away,
leaving the day stained
like the sheet from the pomegranate seed.
As I slept that night
wrapped in the painted sheet
dreaming of blissful aubergines
a bomb went off on a distant continent
where you waited for a bus to stop.
Now, I call my house silence
and the silence, my love, is you.
But the brush has found new purpose:
the strokes are strong, the strings seamless
and the ink, dark as mulberry, glows.
Meanjin Volume 73 Issue 1 2014
The full Meanjin archive can be accessed at www.informit.com.au/meanjinbackfiles