the artist

the artist
I did not know love,
what it could be, what it was,
but the artist stirred
something in my soul before
I even knew I had one
I stood on a chair
to sneak a better look at
the dazzling stranger
standing by our gazebo
shaking hands with mum and dad
plaited in her hair,
a weave of tiny mirrors,
catching the sun’s rays,
code messages? semaphore?
like in Secret Seven books?
dad spoiled it for me
at supper when he mentioned
she was no spy but
a ‘modern artist’ after 
renting one of the attics
three flights above a
cave of colours cried out for
exploration – a 
respite from On The Buses
school day grey and beans on toast
I crept the staircase
hoping for a glimpse inside 
that magic cavern –
her paintings filled the landing,
I knocked a couple over
the door burst open,
“do not touch! do not speak! sit!”
I found a corner,
‘do you like jazz? – nodding,
I hoped ‘jazz’ meant chocolate
I watched spell-bound, mute,
as the seeming random strokes –
brush against canvas –
teased images into life –
“let there be… and it was so”
Ella Fitzgerald
wept from the artist’s Dansette,
“… I die a little…”
the artist wept too, salt tears
dripping onto her palette
her three best paintings – 
a Scarborough holiday,
gazing out to sea
through a rain-swept window her
bored son sitting beside her
visiting Grandma –
in a stiff black Sunday dress
perched on a stiff high-back chair
dunking biscuits, drinking tea
a derelict house;
(I reckon her childhood home)
behind the crumbling
facade she caught its essence –
a century’s history,
births, family feuds,
home-comings and funerals –
world wars 1 and 2 –
it survived them all – until
the day of the wrecking ball
the artist moved out,
dumped her keys in a fruit bowl.
mum and dad have gone,
to lie in adjoining plots,
not one of them said ‘goodbye’
the paintings are gone
but live in my memory
I’m often upstairs
reflecting on the artist,
the jazz – Satchmo and Ella,
filling the attic
with a worn scratched recording  
of our ‘special’ song,
Every Time We Say Goodbye,
and a fair share of sighing…

© coolhermit 2023
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