The whole month of October, over and over,
he paints her: gold dust of bees, red ocher,
egg glair, titanium dioxide, indigo, madder,
a dilution of murex, acacia gum, oil of flax.
Spark. Flame. The drum of avid concentration.
With weasel-hair brush, he paints her, nothing
but her, daubed and dipped half smile, dark blue
eyes, calcimine skin, resinous cascade of hair.
In fly-wing strokes and dabs, he reins in a lash,
chocolate-colored mole, fast pulse, a murmur,
spidery red webs and nodes, a germ, stray fibers.
He holds the canvas like stretched skin on a frame.
Turps his smeared fingers. Wraps his cleansed
palette knife back into its burlap hive. When at last
he unveils his finished Portrait of Jo, nothing is there.
That leaf from a foreign maple you picked up,
carried, and airmailed back to me desiccates
now in its cream envelope. Stowed blood drop,
dross, remnant, replica, relic, memento, avatar,
talisman, the thing itself not as it once was—flat,
shiny—even my memory of its essence altered.
Each stringy fiber, doubled rib, stalky petiole
released by transmutation at last wings, wafts,
wheels like paper in the loose weave of the air.
All poems copyright © Jo Pitkin 2017