Retouching the Canvas

I am not sure what it was-

A calling, a desire, a need

To start afresh; reborn-

Washed down to white,

A bare canvas to be painted on,

Once more, without mark or tint

Of what had been or came before

And yet, in this new rendering,

Each selected stroke

And technique of life and love

That had gone before

Shone out as if I’d laid

One too few undercoats

To cover up the replication

Of the previous interpretation.

But they were merely tones-

Hints of what had led me here,

To this city as old as time,

That so reveled in its own past

That it proved impossible

For anyone or anything to look

Directly in front of them

Without being aware of all

That lay in its shadowed history;

The heartless father- no longer

As ice stone in the memory,

Melting slightly with every sunset

Witnessed by the Pont des Arts.

How you tortured us,

I once thought, and yet,

With distance to enlighten me,

I see it was you who was tortured

By your own fumbling hands,

Unable to hold on to what you had,

But fighting to make it bleed as it fell

From your frightened clutch.

I’d cast you in my child-thinking mind

As impenetrable rock, and yet,

You were no more than base-empty,

Fool-hearted, stubborn image

Of lost boy, plunking manly grunts

Onto foolish quarrels that festered

Within you, as we pulled away,

Long before your slow path

To fated finish line- the end.

A line that I no longer saw

From the sanctuary of my own

Tiny life, all carved out

In new directions, opposite

To all of yours until my feet rested

On that fine day, in summer,

On the ground under which

I hoped you lay at peace, at last.

And so I turned from you,

With a nod of final forgiveness

To our past and flew back

To my future where firm footing

Claimed my title as accepted dweller

Instead of foreigner within.

I became an inhabitant

In my own right and a witness

To this city that stretched out

Before me as each new dawn

Rose to tempt me

With further offerings before

Wrapping itself around me

Once more as the sun set

On those journeys home-

Always bank side and lamp lit-

When this once walled city

Leant in and shielded me

From the loneliness of that run

From home; the free-falling flight

Of the frenzied Irishman to France.

Was youth my only excuse

For the naivety and lack

Of processions I’d arrived with;

A wallet not so bulging, a tongue

That had barely tickled the language

And a boy without a home,

Or friend or job to do?

And yet that was the desire

That bought me that once-off,

One-way, discounted, newspaper

Cut-out, couponed ticket.

My greatest folly and yet,

So too, my greatest joy.

My canvas may not have been

As blank as I thought but,

By the end, it had been

Uncompromisingly retouched,

The edges softened, the frame

Selected and, in my own reflection,

I saw colors I had never before

Imagined to be a part of me.

pont des arts

8 thoughts on “Retouching the Canvas

    1. deuxiemepeau

      Thank you very much for your comment- it is really lovely to have feedback- the picture is actually a painting i did years ago near the pont des arts in Paris.

  1. exploringcolour

    I’ve been pondering parts of this poem – the blank canvas, the tones and hints of what has been that aren’t quite completely covered up, the uncompromising retouching, the new frame selected and the new colours found that you hadn’t imagined to be a part of you before. The imagery is amazing and I think these things will stay in my mind to be pondered over for a long time. There’s such a lot of confidence and hope in a better future and the ability to be able to start anew, and to paint a more pleasing picture I guess! You published this post Christmas 2013 so in your view how does the canvas look now?

    1. deuxiemepeau

      I think it’s far more crammed than I ever thought possible, which hopefully makes it more interesting, certainly more to read into. But then there are also parts of it with beginnings that haven’t been followed through, certain colors that clashed; sometimes bad choices, sometimes just a curve I needed to learn from. I still recognize who I was within the frame as a part of who I am. The shy boy, uncertain and unsure, is as much the part of me as the one telling jokes and filling the silences now. Sometimes I think this out going, seemingly extravert that most people recognize as me is the least of me, the character, the shade of red painted to catch attention, to be heard a little louder. Who people see me as and what flows from me as a writer are two very different things so perhaps the canvas is still unfinished. Like a book, some of the chapters still need to bleed into each other. I used to paint on fabric- there you can’t really control what will be the edge and what will bleed over the line. To be continued perhaps!!! 🤗🤗 greetings from a hot Paris Monday night to my favorite pair of Kiwis

      1. exploringcolour

        Thank you Dami for giving me such a considered and interesting reply as I really did want to know. You were very courageous to just upsticks and leave everything behind. “The shade of red painted to catch attention” is intriguing. SO has to present a “front” that’s not really him sometimes (work). Pressure to be “social” in some contexts. Conversely, deliberately not filling in a silence can be a useful tool to get some extra information as people “fill in” the silence! Its certainly difficult to really know other people, and amazingly complicated to even recognise our own true self! I really enjoyed your observations, thanks so much for sharing! Tues late morning here and its sunny (after days of grey drizzle). Yay!

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