Stan recreates the scene, fills the space with color, plants blooming
trees behind the wagon. Cleans his brush. Begins again.
The trees are green today, black
in the original photograph.
It used to take Stan two hours to paint one, his teacher says. But now
he makes two, three paintings in that time. The wagon
is leaving the farm, and we are following. The painter
fills in the sky, dots it with speckles like confetti or the shell of a dyed egg
lifted from a cup of blue.
He grew up on a farm,
has always enjoyed working hard. He and his three brothers
and one sister kept busy, his father
and mother, too. They harvested grains and baled hay. Nurtured
thirty cows, and grew potatoes and sprawling
vegetable gardens. He likes the hard work,
brushing the palette with bristles until the water revives the dust
he will drive along paper to color the road.
The spoked wheels turn away from us.
Three milk jugs sit in the rear of the wagon, and up front:
the couple, embracing. Their bodies
flash white in the photograph. Their faces
meet in the shadow of their newsboy hats touching. Their gazes
unite, absorbing only each other. Stan lifts his brush; his mother
now in red. His father, a midnight shade of blue. They’re delivering
milk to the market, but forgetting all about it, all
about the world and the work on the farm and the road ahead
and the one behind. Stan swirls his brush, changing
the water, and is happy to show his painting.
The art teacher waves a humming hairdryer over his work, prepares
to leave their final class. See, Stan never missed a single one.
Can I give you a hug? she says. Yes. Wonderful. He takes
the brushes she gives him to keep. His wife, Joanne,
sets the painting in a frame and once, long ago,
she and Stan nursed a kitten to good health together, and they smile
about this memory. Tini, Joanne says, was the kitten’s name.
She hangs Stan’s painting with the others, where it collects award ribbons,
holds a mere moment, a bountiful love, watercolors by his hand. And already
Stan is deciding what to paint next.
©2017 by Nicole Miyashiro
This poem is also featured in Words of Art.