by Michael Ponsford
Usually he paints me with a book. I lean on one arm, and the light catches the open page in front of me, scatters on my face. When I read, he says, there’s a sadness about me that he likes.
But today he wants me standing in the window, holding just my shirt – the soft green one, the colour of the fields outside. It’s early. Just the hint of frost or dewfall; the hawthorn and the hornbeam already in leaf. So quiet: just the gold song of a single blackbird startles the morning outside.
This is more difficult than sitting with a book. Not ‘difficult’ exactly: I’m just more self-conscious, more aware of him watching me. Last week he painted me in my yellow cardigan, reading a page of Carver’s. It was a story about a blind man – or really about a man whose wife invites a friend, a blind man, to stay with them. The husband, the narrator, he didn’t make sense to me, wanting to close down his life, resisting conversation. It made me sad, this story. I think the painting shows this.
Again now, the sharp smell of turpentine and paint. He works in a flurry, his brush busy on the palette, scrabbling at canvas. I’ll clean those brushes later while he makes lunch, as always. He insists on it. An omelette today, or frittata, or whatever he calls it, with spears of asparagus and those little blush tomatoes. A glass of cold albariño.
Then I’ll call Caroline again, see if she’s any better. Nearly a year since she lost her daughter. I still think about that telephone call, the first of March, and the first gold of the daffodils by the river. I couldn’t take it in, what Caro was saying, it didn’t make any sense. Then it fell into place, and it was that awareness that nothing would be the same again. Those dark days that followed, denying the spring.
And now I stand again in this house we shared, looking through the big windows down the valley. The meadows are empty, though the trees are green with young leaves. I have just this shirt to hold against me. I feel the first sun warm on my back. I think about it as a touch of gold in my hair, a highlight on my shoulders.
Michael Ponsford writes poetry and short stories, and works as a teacher in Wiltshire.